We're All Game Developers Now

Posted by patrickklepek (3468 posts) -

Beta tests are now commonplace, especially for games with expansive multiplayer. The term “beta,” however, has changed, as it’s unlikely that more than balance tweaks can change when a beta test occurs just weeks before a game ships.

Obtaining valuable feedback is a constant struggle for the games industry, and a problem I hear about constantly from developers I’ve talked to over the years. Friends and family don't usually work because it's hard for them to be honest, and focus tests are notorious for being tough to gain workable feedback from.

In order to play Minecraft before it was "finished," players had to purchase into the beta.

The success of Minecraft has changed everything. Suddenly, there is a business model for players to become involved early enough in the development process to have a profound impact but late enough that designers can still maintain ownership over the design process.

Fatshark is of the many developers spun off from the infamous implosion of GRIN in 2009, and now to take advantage of what the path Minecraft blazed with the Fallout-inspired Krater.

“We are very much going to listen to the feedback of the community,” said Martin Wahlund, executive producer and CEO at Fatshark.

Wahlund told me Fatshark is “quite” flexible when it comes to changing Krater's design, based on what the community says. Right now, combat involves controlling three characters in real-time, but if players say that’s too complicated and demand something akin to Dragon Age’s pause-able combat, that could happen.

“At the same time,” he continued, “I think it’s important we have a clear vision where we want to go with it. Because if it’s too open, people will go ‘Oh, an FPS would be cool, third-person would be cool, maybe we could fly it around and have an aircraft simulator.’ [laughs] And [we start] getting spread thin. In terms of that, I think it’s good to have a clear vision.”

Fatshark can pull this off with Krater because it’s self-publishing. Previously, the studio has worked with companies like Capcom on Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2.

“They tend to want to have more to say about it,” he joked.

The idea was spurred by both Minecraft and Fatshark’s experience with Lead & Gold, its western-themed multiplayer shooter. The beta test provided needed feedback, such as adding dedicated servers, but it took weeks for Fatshark to respond. By then, most players have made up their mind and moved on. It’s very difficult to win back players after a first impression.

Lead & Gold's post-launch updates were too little too late, which Fatshark wants to change.

“We thought ‘The next product we do, we should do this earlier, so that when we have a bigger team on the project,’” he said. “Because now we have maybe two or three people working on updates for Lead & Gold.”

Minecraft charged people to gain access and start providing feedback. It’s undecided whether Krater will follow that model, too, but Wahlund sees the benefit of having players financially invested.

“Sometimes, I’ve seen that people come with a lot of feedback and we check and they don’t even own the game--they haven’t even played it,” he said. “They just like to be vocal about their opinions. I think, in terms of that, it would be quite nice to have feedback from people who actually have a stake in the game, and have bought the game.”

There will be way for non-paying fans to participate, too--the details are still being worked out. In fact, all sorts of details realted to this are still being worked out, and Fatshark is playing everything by ear. So much of what will happen with this program will be figured out on the fly, but if you're interested in being a part of it from day one, head to www.kratergame.com.

“It would be hard to go back to the old model,” said Wahlund, when asked how Krater might influence the rest of Fatshark. “I hope this is the first of the rest of our projects, so to speak, as the way to develop games. “

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3468 posts) -

Beta tests are now commonplace, especially for games with expansive multiplayer. The term “beta,” however, has changed, as it’s unlikely that more than balance tweaks can change when a beta test occurs just weeks before a game ships.

Obtaining valuable feedback is a constant struggle for the games industry, and a problem I hear about constantly from developers I’ve talked to over the years. Friends and family don't usually work because it's hard for them to be honest, and focus tests are notorious for being tough to gain workable feedback from.

In order to play Minecraft before it was "finished," players had to purchase into the beta.

The success of Minecraft has changed everything. Suddenly, there is a business model for players to become involved early enough in the development process to have a profound impact but late enough that designers can still maintain ownership over the design process.

Fatshark is of the many developers spun off from the infamous implosion of GRIN in 2009, and now to take advantage of what the path Minecraft blazed with the Fallout-inspired Krater.

“We are very much going to listen to the feedback of the community,” said Martin Wahlund, executive producer and CEO at Fatshark.

Wahlund told me Fatshark is “quite” flexible when it comes to changing Krater's design, based on what the community says. Right now, combat involves controlling three characters in real-time, but if players say that’s too complicated and demand something akin to Dragon Age’s pause-able combat, that could happen.

“At the same time,” he continued, “I think it’s important we have a clear vision where we want to go with it. Because if it’s too open, people will go ‘Oh, an FPS would be cool, third-person would be cool, maybe we could fly it around and have an aircraft simulator.’ [laughs] And [we start] getting spread thin. In terms of that, I think it’s good to have a clear vision.”

Fatshark can pull this off with Krater because it’s self-publishing. Previously, the studio has worked with companies like Capcom on Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2.

“They tend to want to have more to say about it,” he joked.

The idea was spurred by both Minecraft and Fatshark’s experience with Lead & Gold, its western-themed multiplayer shooter. The beta test provided needed feedback, such as adding dedicated servers, but it took weeks for Fatshark to respond. By then, most players have made up their mind and moved on. It’s very difficult to win back players after a first impression.

Lead & Gold's post-launch updates were too little too late, which Fatshark wants to change.

“We thought ‘The next product we do, we should do this earlier, so that when we have a bigger team on the project,’” he said. “Because now we have maybe two or three people working on updates for Lead & Gold.”

Minecraft charged people to gain access and start providing feedback. It’s undecided whether Krater will follow that model, too, but Wahlund sees the benefit of having players financially invested.

“Sometimes, I’ve seen that people come with a lot of feedback and we check and they don’t even own the game--they haven’t even played it,” he said. “They just like to be vocal about their opinions. I think, in terms of that, it would be quite nice to have feedback from people who actually have a stake in the game, and have bought the game.”

There will be way for non-paying fans to participate, too--the details are still being worked out. In fact, all sorts of details realted to this are still being worked out, and Fatshark is playing everything by ear. So much of what will happen with this program will be figured out on the fly, but if you're interested in being a part of it from day one, head to www.kratergame.com.

“It would be hard to go back to the old model,” said Wahlund, when asked how Krater might influence the rest of Fatshark. “I hope this is the first of the rest of our projects, so to speak, as the way to develop games. “

Staff
#2 Edited by Frostburn (36 posts) -

Nice

I don't mind "testing" games now if they setup in advance that it is a work in progress. I feel like game developers are getting worse and worse at releasing unfinished buggy games on all systems though. I guess I'm just old to remember days where games came out and although not perfect, did not seem to have game stopping bugs causing huge issues for the paying customer. I hope the trend balances out at some point.

#3 Posted by on3moresoul (36 posts) -

I think part of the reason that Minecraft was able to sell itself as an alpha and beta was due to a few thing such as the uniqueness of the game, it was playable, the core remained the same throughout and it was made by one single man. You knew your payments went directly to Notch and not a company.

#4 Posted by _Horde (837 posts) -

That's the T from the Tunnelbana!

#5 Posted by Megasoum (351 posts) -

Patrick, you should check out C.A.R.S It's the new game in the making by the guys at Slightly Mad Studios (Need For Speed Shift 1 and 2). The whole game is community driven and people can buy different tiers.

For the cheapest tier (around 10$) you get a new build every month and you can reply to the forums. The middle tier (around 35$) you can create thread and you get a new build every week. The higher tiers (in the thousands of $$) get access to every builds every day as well as investors and dev meetings. They can also IM the devs directly!

It's amazing to be able to see the game form up in front of us. They listen to what people are suggesting and we can already see stuff that was changed or added after people suggested it in the forums.

#6 Posted by borgenswe (3 posts) -

@_Horde: Well, it does take place in good old Sweden :)

#7 Posted by Brodehouse (9581 posts) -

You can stop a GRINdividual.

Online
#8 Posted by Tackchevy (261 posts) -

I like the idea. Too much of politics and commerce is suits telling people what they should want. We have thousands of iterations of games serving as developers' artistic visions coming at us, so it can only be productive to have something like this happening.

#9 Posted by prestonhedges (1965 posts) -

Pay for an alpha? Nope. Sorry. I'm not that dumb.

#10 Posted by Vorbis (2749 posts) -

Already put my name down, very interested.

#11 Posted by Butano (1728 posts) -

Will they do it by Notch's model? The earlier you pay for access, the less it costs?

Looking forward to this. I really enjoyed Lead and Gold, but like Patrick said, network issues in the beginning and then a rather large drop in the community afterwards lead me away from the game. So far their new game looks like a Torchlight version of Fallout, which is OK with me.

#12 Posted by BeefyGrandmole (337 posts) -

I love patricks articles. I'd really like to see him do a weekly write up or video on his thoughts on what's been happening in the industry with someone else from gb or special guests from all over the industry. I loved the interview he did with that fighting game kid. Anyway that was pretty much a mindless rant so I'll be on my way.

#13 Posted by jakob187 (21642 posts) -

While I think this all worked well for Minecraft, the biggest reason I never bothered with the game was because it's a PAID BETA!

Seriously, think about that. You are paying for something that IS NOT A FINISHED PRODUCT! That's like me going to a car lot and buying a car that has the necessary things to make a car run, but I've got no seats, seatbelts, speedometer, trunk lid, etc. Those get put in every three weeks or so later on...over about a year.

If we say "yeah, we'll pay for your game when it's not complete", then what message is that sending to the game industry? Just wait until Activision jumps on the train and says "hey, we're going to release Call of Duty this year...but you are only getting the single player at first...then we're going to patch in the multiplayer...but it's only two modes...then we'll patch more in..."

While I love the work that GRIN and Fatshark have done, and I would love even more to play this game now that I just bought a rig to play games on at the house, I cannot get behind the idea of a paid beta. BUILD YOUR GAME FIRST, THEN SUPPORT IT!

#14 Posted by keyblade_war92 (7 posts) -

cool

#15 Posted by cstrang (2381 posts) -

I don't mind offering feedback on a game beta/whatever as long as I benefit from it in some way monetarally. Don't sit there and expect me to design your game, doing your job effectively, for free.

#16 Posted by Airickson (120 posts) -

I don't know, but I think of paying for this sort of thing is more than simply paying for a game -- you're getting a chance to help shape a game. To me, at least, if it were a game I was very interested in, I think I would happily pay for it.

#17 Posted by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

Fatshark are good guys. I'll check this out.

#18 Posted by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

@jakob187: I don't think the car analogy works, since in this case the reason you buy into it in advance is so you can help direct the development of the game. Obviously you have to be passionate about the game in the first place to want to play it continuously and watch it grow, so this approach won't work with your average game, but there's still something do it.

Also naturally, if you only want to buy the finished product you can simply wait till it's done and take no part in the process, I'm sure Fatshark would be perfectly fine with that too.

Anyway, I kinda look forward to this, there were good ideas in BCR2 and Lead and Gold, they just gotta work on their execution so hopefully this will do them some good.

#19 Posted by MisterMouse (3540 posts) -

it would be cool if it came out on mac as well, that is one thing minecraft was able to do was have it going on both platforms.

#20 Posted by billyhoush (1192 posts) -

it's all about appropriation. The whole way community is sold back to us feels like a scam but I guess that's why this website is built around a wiki. Get users to make their own content and then sell it back to them. Gives people that false sense of ownership and accomplishment.

Pure genius. Mwahahahaha!!!

#21 Posted by ch3burashka (5009 posts) -

Fatshark's awesome; I loved me some Lead & Gold. I'm always interested in what indie devs are doing. Sure, we'll get a Modern Warfare every year on the dot, but what the small guys are doing is infinitely more exciting.

#22 Posted by BoG (5181 posts) -

I sent my contact info to the team for the beta. Hope I get in! Sounds like a very cool project.

#23 Posted by Corvak (891 posts) -

I think it makes a lot of sense, but one big stumbling block is where consumers can be left feeling underwhelmed, or even used, especially in the case of Minecraft, and especially when it involves indie projects.

For example, when minecraft first caught on, this was a really cool thing - the developer takes suggestions seriously, and many of the asked-for items are finding their way into weekly updates, and so on.

Once he got successful however, this changed. Specifically, Mojang appeared, and suddenly all of Notch's creative energy was directed elsewhere, and minecraft seemed to hit a brick wall. Lawyers were hired, Notch couldn't do all the cool stuff he wanted to anymore. Weekly updates became monthly, and now are bi-monthly at best. The term beta became less about testing and more about getting 25% off by buying earlier. Updates recieve a lot more internal testing, of the sort beta testers expected to be dealing with.

#24 Posted by Pixeldemon (244 posts) -

I really don't think Minecraft's "buy the alpha/beta" model was actually anything special. It was simply a way of managing expectations: release an incomplete/buggy game with the promise of improvements to come. People accept it because it's an "alpha". Big-name studios do this all the time, they just don't tell their audiences that they're buying a rushed-out buggy/incomplete game.

#25 Posted by Smersh (228 posts) -

First Minecraft, then Skyrim, now this.

Krator-Kon sounds pretty bad-ass (just don't go adding the Kinect edition cause shit will get real!)

#26 Posted by uberpwner93 (413 posts) -

Sent my email application. This definitely looks interesting.

#27 Posted by HarlequinRiot (1098 posts) -

@Smersh said:

First Minecraft, then Skyrim, now this.

Krator-Kon sounds pretty bad-ass (just don't go adding the Kinect edition cause shit will get real!)

#28 Posted by Puck (50 posts) -

Ultimately, this is just an issue of semantics - what you call a 'beta'.

Google was the first I can remember (off hand) to push out a full product and call it a 'beta', with Gmail, etc.

So I've heard people say Google+ hasn't failed, because it's only in 'beta'.....uh, no. Google+ failed regardless of what state its in now, because viral networks don't get more than one chance to grow. The release status doesn't change perception. What changes it is how CATCHY it is.

The same thing will apply to games. Release it however you want, but if you don't have the core viral-catchiness (that Gmail & Minecraft, etc) have, then you won't go anywhere no matter what you call the release. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Gold, Release, Mu, Omega....it don't matter.

#29 Posted by Three0neFive (2287 posts) -

So is this actually turn-based in the vein of Fallout, or is it just "Fallout-inspired" in that it's post apocalyptic?

#30 Posted by Tordah (2471 posts) -

I think that this is a great idea, but it's totally not for me. I have way too little time as it is to play finished products, much less unfinished games and betas. I'll play it when it's done if it's any good.

Online
#31 Posted by artofwar420 (6251 posts) -

Isometric?

Fallout?

Sign me up.

#32 Posted by Irvandus (2818 posts) -

@Frostburn said:

Nice

I don't mind "testing" games now if they setup in advance that it is a work in progress. I feel like game developers are getting worse and worse at releasing unfinished buggy games on all systems though. I guess I'm just old to remember days where games came out and although not perfect, did not seem to have game stopping bugs causing huge issues for the paying customer. I hope the trend balances out at some point.

Well said

#33 Posted by TatsurouXIII (649 posts) -

good one!

#34 Posted by radioactivez0r (829 posts) -

They also made Hamilton's Great Adventure in between, which is awesome.

#35 Posted by Norusdog (340 posts) -

That screenshot is depressing.

I want a REAL fallout 3

#36 Posted by dvorak (1496 posts) -

@Three0neFive said:

So is this actually turn-based in the vein of Fallout, or is it just "Fallout-inspired" in that it's post apocalyptic?

Hopefully it's inspired by more A Boy And His Dog, or Mad Max than Fallout. There are different kinds of post-apocalypse. They all are terrible places of course though.

#37 Posted by JackG100 (403 posts) -

Does this mean they canned War of the Roses? Cause that game seemed like a good idea to me...

#38 Posted by Fjordson (2448 posts) -

I love me some Fallout, so I'm down.

And unlike Minecraft, this sounds like an actual game.

#39 Edited by fatshark_mwd (3 posts) -

@gladspooky:

Hi I am Martin form Fatshark. I would like to clarify a bit about the model. You will be able to test the game for free of course, at least if you have sign up now really early ;) (the amount of sign ups have been awesome so at some point we need choose who to pick for the tests). If you like it and believe in the final product you can buy it at a large discount at the pre alpha stage or wait for the final products and buy it for full price. We won't force anyone top buy it, of course!

The important here is not the payment model. If the game becomes as good as we think people will play it and buy it. The important thing is to start the dialogue early with the ones actually playing our games. Even though this is a game we really want to play, the majority of the players in the game will not be in our office so it makes sence to listen to the majority of gamers/customers.

And No, War of The Roses is very much in production and looks really good. :) Expect some new screens very soon. You can follow the development of both games at our facebook page or twitter feed. @fatsharkgames

Cheers

#40 Posted by fatshark_mwd (3 posts) -

@jakob187:

By no means you need to buy the game early it is just an option and a very early cheap pre-order.

However the important thing here is not the payment at alpha the important thing is to get early feedback from gamers.

You can always buy the game at release if you like the reviews. It is not an exclusive thing and the time between the alpha build and the release will be a few months not a year or so.

#41 Edited by Christoffer (1757 posts) -

@fatshark_mwd said:

@gladspooky:

Hi I am Martin form Fatshark. I would like to clarify a bit about the model. You will be able to test the game for free of course, at least if you have sign up now really early ;) (the amount of sign ups have been awesome so at some point we need choose who to pick for the tests). If you like it and believe in the final product you can buy it at a large discount at the pre alpha stage or wait for the final products and buy it for full price. We won't force anyone top buy it, of course!

Cheers

It's awesome you take the time to post here. My first though was to immediately apply as a "tester". The game sounds really interesting. But since you already seem to have plenty application I'll just wait for the final release :)

This is my only advice. Play a bunch of Black Isle and Troika games. Take it from where they left off and improve. Man... if only

#42 Posted by fatshark_mwd (3 posts) -

@Christoffer:

Every opinion is very valuable so if you have the time sign up at kratergame.com

Black Isle's games was genius. I also loved the jagged alliance games and of course XCOM (the original).

I played a lot of EverQuest as well back in the days. I think their class-dynamics were really solid. I also liked the fact the most enemies were really hard.

#43 Posted by OllyOxenFree (4970 posts) -

we president now

#44 Posted by TheMustacheHero (6655 posts) -

Fuck Fatshark. I hate, hate, hate them. Their devs are incompetent assholes and their forum posts show that.

#45 Posted by Demyx (3237 posts) -

Wholly depends on the price for me.

#46 Posted by vaulthero101 (3 posts) -

looks like its going to be terrific

#47 Posted by harlekinrains (8 posts) -

I still remember when user generated content would be the next "big thing" that would advance gaming in general - well always sounded to me too much like an outsourcing thing.

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