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Friday, October 02, 2015

The $90M crash of Star Citizen

Lizzy Finnegan opens the floodgates on what is looking like one of the biggest crash-and-burns in the game industry since 38 Studios and Flagship, if not Atari's ET.
Crowdfunding in general has seen a harsh decline in consumer trust in the past year, particularly when more prominent names are behind the projects. Mighty No. 9 has seen repeated delays, and fans voiced concerns when Shenmue 3 reopened crowdfunding after more than tripling their initial goal.

On September 22, independent developer Derek Smart penned a lengthy blog post that called into question Star Citizen, a title from game designer and producer Chris Roberts that was successfully funded on Kickstarter, raising over $2 million through the popular crowdfunding website. The game raised over $89 million total through a variety of sources, and remains the most crowdfunded video game project of all time.

Smart has been regularly critical of Roberts' company Cloud Imperium Games, subsidiary Roberts Space Industries, and the development of Star Citizen, writing a total of five bulky blog posts since July. In these posts, Smart questions the allocation of funds, delays in the game's release, changes to the format and features, silent changes to the Terms of Service agreement, and the ability for the company to produce the game at all.

Not all backers share Smart's concerns, with a Change.org petition demanding that Smart "immediately desist in your ongoing actions against "RSI" (CIG) and Star Citizen." The petition has garnered over 2,000 signatures.

In August, Smart wrote of his intention to send a "demand letter" to Cloud Imperium Games insisting on a "complete forensic accounting" of the money that has been spent on the game, as well as a solid release date and a refund option for anyone who wants one. Smart offered to pay for the forensic accounting out of his own pocket. In addition, he said that failure to deliver on any of those demands would lead to the immediate filing of a class-action lawsuit. That demand letter was sent on August 21.

Lawyers for CIG reportedly responded in a letter, which Smart shared online, stating that Smart had been a backer for the project, contributing $250 in 2012. The letter continued, stating that Smart "commenced his defamatory actions in early July 2015 on his blog - without any basis or backup, and with many links to his own game in development - that the "Star Citizen" project was a fraud and that it was never going to be delivered." The money that Smart contributed to the project had previously been refunded to him, a refund that was not requested but rather initiated by CIG. The letter then points to Smart's career and financial issues, accuses him of "desperate efforts to harm [Star Citizen] for his own publicity gains," and concluded with the assertion that Smart has no legal basis and the demands were being rejected.

One major point of concern includes the seemingly silent alterations to the Terms of Service. In total, a revision to the Terms of Service includes 178 removals and 199 additions, and was instated after the initial release window for Star Citizen had already passed. The original ToS that backers agreed to when contributing the project was ToS v1.1 listed on the RSI website, and stated that if the game failed to be delivered within 12 months of the original Kickstarter estimated delivery date, refunds would be available. At the time, the project held a November 2014 release date, making the non-delivery period November 2015. This was changed on February 1, 2015 to ToS v1.2 to reflect a new timeframe of 18 months. The anticipated delivery date had also changed at this time, to the end of 2016.

"This company was given millions of dollars to deliver a product. They have not delivered that product. And in all likelihood, the company - and project - will both fail before they even get to delivering even 50% of what's promised," Smart asserted in his most recent post. "There isn't a single pro developer on this planet, who after looking at what has thus far been delivered, compared to what was promised up to $65m funded, will say that they can deliver this product within the next three years."
As it happens, I have been casually acquainted with Chris Roberts since the Wing Commander days and I consider him to be one of the game design greats. Along with Richard Garriott, John Romero, and Steve Fawkner, he is one of my game design heroes. I don't merely like and respect Chris, I look up to him. The five or six hours I spent talking with him, John Romero, and Epic's current audio director over drinks at the Santa Clara Westin one evening was one of the most fascinating, informative, and educational experiences of my life... and Chris paid the entire $700+ bill himself. I am still an Origin fan and Wing Commander is one of my all-time favorite games; I even gave Ender a fancy joystick last Christmas just so he could play through the first two games and the secret missions, which he greatly enjoyed doing. I was absolutely delighted when I heard that Star Citizen was in the works.

As it happens, I also had the responsibility of going through Chris's plans in great detail when Star Citizen was still a Wing Commander reboot with a license from EA and a $25M budget. I ran into one of the guys from the fund this summer and we talked about whether the top man's decision to reject it had been a mistake in light of Chris's unprecedented crowdsourcing success; it is now looking as if the decision to not fund the game may have been the right call after all. I strongly recommended that we do it; I still think that an updated Wing Commander would have been hugely successful as it was originally conceived.

At one point, Chris and I even discussed the idea of Star Citizen making use of my Psy-AI design for wingmen, but I didn't seriously pursue it, partly because I couldn't tell if Chris's interest was genuine or if he was simply being polite, and partly because the new game was bigger in scope and I didn't see the focus being on wingmen the way it was in Wing Commander. And as time has gone on, and the scope of the project continued to grow, my dev-spidey sense began to twitch just like every other experienced producer's has even though I wasn't paying close attention to it anymore.

“Without disrespect to anyone, I’m just going to say it: it is my opinion that, this game, as has been pitched, will never get made. Ever. There isn’t a single publisher or developer on this planet who could build this game as pitched, let alone for anything less than $150 million. The original vision which I backed in 2012? Yes, that was totally doable. This new vision? Not a chance. The technical scope of this game surpasses GTAV, not to mention the likes of Halo. Do you have any idea what those games cost to make and how long they took? Do you know how many games which cost $50 million to make took almost five years to release? And they were nowhere [as big] in scope as Star Citizen?”
- Derek Smart, 6 July 2015

Every producer and executive producer knows the feeling of a project that is beginning to slip its date. And every producer and executive producer learns to distinguish between a game that is going to be late and a game that is simply never going to be the game it was promised to be. Unfortunately, when seen from the outside at this point, Star Citizen could not look more like the latter if it was called Battlecruiser 2015 AD.

Derek Smart has a reputation for spectacular failure in the industry, but it's not really a fair one, and more importantly, that particular failure took place a long time ago. Nor was it anywhere nearly as bad as most people who have only heard about it secondhand tend to believe. And one very significant thing that the Star Citizen defenders are neglecting to note is that besides David Braben, there is no one in the industry who is better suited to recognize the danger signs of a large-scale space combat development project going awry than Derek. Now others are starting to look more closely into the situation, Forbes, for one, and unfortunately, Chris Roberts's response to Smart's observations and Finnigan's article sounds a lot more like messenger-killing than allaying what increasingly appear to be substantive fears for what has become a gargantuan project.

The problem, I suspect, is not uncommon in the game industry. Chris is a visionary and a brilliant game designer. He is not a producer despite having successfully produced games in the past. But as too many developers have done before him, he appears to have effectively combined the lead designer's role with the lead producer's role into a single Game Director's role for which he and many other designers - including me - are temperamentally unsuited, and as a consequence the project appears to have gone off the rails as a direct result of too much money combined with too many good ideas and too little focus on actually implementing those ideas and getting things done.

One thing game developers scraping by and wishing for more resources need to recognize is that funding is as much problem as panacea. Just as the crude state of early graphics technology partially dictated the gameplay and made it easier to focus by virtue of its limitations, a lack of money forces the development focus that is always needed to complete a project. Too much money means no strict externally imposed limitations, and if those limitations are not internally imposed by the producer, the project will tend to grow in scope and scale before collapsing.

I sincerely hope that's not the case with Star Citizen. The success of Star Citizen after such a brilliant crowdfunding campaign would be absolutely wonderful for the entire industry and could launch a much-needed new era of creativity and innovation. The success of Star Citizen is in the material interest of every professional game developer. But after more than two decades in the game industry, I've learned to recognize the danger signs of a derailing development project and more than a few of them are observable around RSI of late.

Labels:

120 Comments:

Blogger rho October 02, 2015 4:53 AM  

Tell us more about how game development didn't work out so well for you.

Blogger epobirs October 02, 2015 5:13 AM  

I have to admit I have little sympathy for anyone who threw money at this. The project struck me as absurdly overambitious from the start. Something like Star Citizen needs to start off with a modest set of goals that can be shipped and build from there. In this era where highly successful project required broadband, a game that downloads new builds every month is a far more rational way to proceed. Kerbal Space Program, while not as over the top of a project, worked out well as a project that delivered something playable and kept building on that to reach its original intent.

Blogger CJ October 02, 2015 5:24 AM  

Maybe they can call Scalzi for a re-write.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 5:27 AM  

Tell us more about how game development didn't work out so well for you.

In fairness, very little of my post-THQ game dev history appears on Wikipedia, so those outside the industry know nothing about what I do or what I have done for the last eight years.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 5:31 AM  

The project struck me as absurdly overambitious from the start. Something like Star Citizen needs to start off with a modest set of goals that can be shipped and build from there.

That was my concern from the beginning. I backed Shroud of the Avatar because I thought Richard's and Starr's approach was feasible. I did not back Star Citizen because I did not think it was. What Chris needed, in my opinion, was a powerful producer with the ability to tell him "no, Chris, we'll save that for version 2 or 3." The problem is that all designers CAN produce, they're just not very good at it. And the bigger the project, the more important the producer is.

Blogger SciVo October 02, 2015 5:49 AM  

Why are designers temperamentally unsuited for also producing?

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 5:58 AM  


Why are designers temperamentally unsuited for also producing?

Because the people who are best at coming up with innovative new ideas are very seldom good at implementing those ideas. It takes a long time to do them right. The ideal producer has just enough imagination to understand the designer's vision but not enough to come up with any ideas of his own. You want thinking outside the box in a designer and managerial competence plus attention to detail in a producer. Those are not complementary skills and they are seldom found in one individual.

Unfortunately, this outcome can't surprise anyone familiar with Chris's film career.

“So if anyone asks what went wrong with the Wing Commander film, there you go. You had a first-time director dealing with a compressed pre-production schedule, and a smaller than average budget for the effects-driven science fiction movie. Roberts said he wished someone had sat him down, forced him to pick four or five things that it was important to do well, and focus on those. Instead he tried to do too much, and didn’t have the budget nor time to do any of it particularly well.“

It wasn't the budget or the time that was the problem. It was the lack of someone forcing him to focus.

Blogger justaguy October 02, 2015 6:28 AM  

VD:

"The ideal producer has just enough imagination to understand the designer's vision but not enough to come up with any ideas of his own."

Game Developer neophyte here, but experienced program manager in software development. I understand that the different phases of software development (from initial ideas to putting the project in some sort of scope box, to the several stages of actual production), each takes a different approach in project management. Initial development and basic architecture require a different method to allow exploration of ideas than later once scope is developed and metrics are used to help prevent unwarranted expansion beyond resources.

My question, are any of the methods from large commercial software development used in game development? Software development has a long history with lots of models and metrics and ways to try to keep the program on track. I always assumed that although more artistic, game development, being more competitive with higher failure rates, was further along in management and production than the Oracles, Microsofts, and other big software development companies.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 6:45 AM  

My question, are any of the methods from large commercial software development used in game development?

Yes, quite a few of them are at the larger studios. But game development remains a somewhat cowboyish environment, especially in a situation like RSI, where the principals are not subject to any corporate oversight.

Blogger justaguy October 02, 2015 6:56 AM  

Thank you,

Sounds like natural selection in a relative open competitive market at work.

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 7:03 AM  

You instincts are correct, Vox. I've worked with devs like Chris before as well, and their enthusiasm need to be throttled every once and a while by a good PM (Project Manager).

My red flag went up when I saw that they were also doing a Star Citizen FPS module along with the game. That goes beyond feature creep and into "let's make another game too" creep(?).

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 7:11 AM  

"My question, are any of the methods from large commercial software development used in game development?"

I asked this at a Testing and Verification round table some years ago at GDC once. The answer I got is no, they don't...at least they didn't at the time.

As you know, in other industries, you typically have a customer giving requirements or specs in which developers and verification (i.e. testing) follow in order to insure they design what is asked for. There is usually a whole process around meeting specs and tracing cutomer requirements to testing results, etc.There is usually some standards being followed like ISO or the like. There is no such engine in game dev.

They make their own requirements and go from there, and that's usually where the trouble starts unless you have very strong Project Management at the table.

Blogger justaguy October 02, 2015 7:14 AM  

VD,

A side question, but related to games-- the big tech companies are pushing getting more coders from the population. I suspect that this is a typical scam to get more low paying employees. This along with the H1B visa scam seems to be the mode for the current tech companies. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

While I agree that the methods of logical of thinking necessary for coding is good for general knowledge, as a career I see coding as a dead end. Too many people I’ve met started in big company X as a programmer or coder 20 years ago, and as the tech schools produced more and the automated programs got better, the pay went down and the layoffs went up.
It only takes so many idea people and then the high level architects to set initial framework. After that the rest is a grind of spitting out code to match someone else’s ideas. The way programs now code themselves from basic ideas seems to be getting more and more sophisticated, and even the algorithm development/resource analysis seems to be giving way to brute force. The ones who have an engineering background or knows enough analysis to do effective marketing and is on/heads the sales teams seem to be the high money earners in much of the software service business. Again your thoughts are appreciated.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 7:23 AM  

The big difference between game dev and other forms of software development is that very often, in games, what one is attempting to do has never been done before. So a lot of project management concepts are not terribly viable. How long will it take to do something neither you nor anyone else has ever done before?

That's why a ruthless producer is a godsend in game development. And that's why designers are so uniformly bad at it. The combination is psychologically stressful, so much so that the Game Director (ie. lead designer and lead producer) of Age of Conan never recovered from getting it out the door. He left the industry and now works as a psychotherapist, if I recall correctly.

Blogger justaguy October 02, 2015 7:47 AM  

I agree with you that a ruthless producer is a godsend in XXXX development. but
"So a lot of project management concepts are not terribly viable."

New things in any development can still have metrics applied to them as a way to help development. There are a variety of different methods to take similar functions from older projects and apply them to new ones in building large, complex software programs. They don’t always fit to curve, but there are ways to monitor even that. One key in project management is to create some type of metrics to measure progress along the critical variables. These can be for applying more resources, deciding what to cut and run, or even the gross metrics at the initial stages that try to roughly allocate scope (fit it in the available box) and at least determine what can and can’t be done. Of course The Key is knowing not to slavishly follow the metrics and spreadsheets, and to actually lead.

I smiled when you mentioned “your Spidey sense” as anyone experienced in a field gets an intuitive sense of progress and their own internal ways to see if a project is going well. Metrics help those of us who don’t have decades of experience because those who have the experience don’t have the time to follow the details and grind of building what they developed. They are normally off designing/creating the initial stages of the next big thing.

Blogger Nate October 02, 2015 7:47 AM  

This reminds me a great deal of Destiny... except Destiny was announced from the very beginning to be a 10 year project. Given how much its expanded and changed and added features in one year... I could see Destiny eventually living up to all the hype and more. But it will take a long long time... and they spent way more than any 65 million on it.

I wonder if Chris shouldn't have taken that route. rather than trying to release the full blown everything at once game... get a functional fun version of the game out there... and spend next several years adding content... and charging for it.

The Taken King is much closer to what was promised in the hype leading up to Destiny. But its still not there. (full disclosure... I only know about this hype in hind-sight. I largely ignore all video game media and have since the late 90s.) That said... you can see it moving that way. That model could maybe work with something with the scope of Star Citizen.

Blogger Salt October 02, 2015 7:56 AM  

Every venture, any venture, needs the hard ass to run herd on it. The more natural the asshole, the better chance of success.

OpenID ymarsakar October 02, 2015 8:22 AM  

But as too many developers have done before him, he appears to have effectively combined the lead designer's role with the lead producer's role into a single Game Director's role for which he and many other designers - including me - are temperamentally unsuited, and as a consequence the project appears to have gone off the rails as a direct result of too much money combined with too many good ideas and too little focus on actually implementing those ideas and getting things done.

When Obsidian made Pillars of Eternity, the accounting role and the role of saying "no" to the artists, was in one person, but the creative director was Josh Sawyer, the big ideas person in charge of forming the vision and combat mechanics.

It is generally not a good idea to combine the two roles, since as stated, there's a manpower issue there. People who are good at both, often don't exist at hand.

Blogger Cail Corishev October 02, 2015 8:33 AM  

This reminds me a great deal of Destiny

I saw a promo for that during the football game last night, and I thought, "Ah, I see why Nate raves about this game." TV ads for games usually look like they're selling the cut scenes, making me wonder how much worse the game looks, but this didn't give me that feel. I haven't played a new game since something like Rollercoaster Tycoon, but that looked damn cool.

OpenID aegis-1080 October 02, 2015 8:34 AM  

One of the reasons of why Reaxxion's closure was sad is that they were the only videogame website with the balls to publish Smart's article. Everybody else was too afraid of get the shit sued out of them for pointing that the Emperor has no clothes. Not to mention that game websites that dare to point out that buying preorders is stupid don't get to be in the cool kids table anymore.

Blogger Nate October 02, 2015 8:47 AM  

"TV ads for games usually look like they're selling the cut scenes, making me wonder how much worse the game looks, but this didn't give me that feel."

One of the great things about Destiny... very few cut scenes. and what cut scenes there are ... are extremely memorable, quotable, and entertaining.

Blogger Nate October 02, 2015 8:51 AM  

but back to the original post... if you're going to build a truley epic scale game in 2015.. it appears to me Bungie's plan is the most realistic way to accomplish it. Spend ten years selling, playing, and building the thing.

Blogger Mindstorm October 02, 2015 9:07 AM  

Erratum:
David Braben, not Braban.

Blogger Christopher Yost October 02, 2015 9:20 AM  

I'm an original backer for SC. I don't recall hearing/reading that the game would be released in '14. Closest to it would be an Alpha access but, again, after '14.

"Packets" (I can't think of the correct term) have since been released. Players are able to take their ships out for a spin and dogfight others.

The scope is truly grand and I'm happy to merely watch how far they're able to push and what they'll achieve.

I'm very comfortable in knowing that Squadron 42 will at least be released and will be giggily if/when the "Privateer" aspect is.

I need to double-check my plans to splice into someone's T5 lines and then steal a Sun Systems computer.

OpenID vilefacelessminion October 02, 2015 9:21 AM  

I agree totally. The vision is overwhelmingly great - it's THE GAME that I want, and have wanted. It was finally going to combine the atmosphere of Wing Commander with the (sadly unrealized) promise of Freelancer's open world with the kind of player-driven universe found in Eve Online. I figured if anyone could pull it off, Roberts could. Now...

I'm not a game developer, but I am a developer. And for my small company, I also serve as the "producer" (though it's just called "product owner" in the boring line-of-business world). It definitely has the scent of a project that's unfocused, frantic, and - if it gets a product out there at all - will produce an uneven, bug-riddled product. Heck, they've completely redone the ship models twice now and ripped and replaced the damage model they use because the new one is "way cool," basically. And it is. But get the damn thing shipped first, then you can worry about replacing (working!) parts of the engine with cooler, newer stuff after players can finally get their hands on a game.

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 9:22 AM  

"The big difference between game dev and other forms of software development is that very often, in games, what one is attempting to do has never been done before."

That's not really true. We do new things all the time in my neck of the R&D woods and still get a product out the door in within a year...and that's with something a hell of a lot more complicated than a video game.

My current theory about what's wrong with game dev is that it's really a software development project, but it's managed more like a movie...and it's devs are treated a lot like the stars of the show. Take into account the cult like personalities involved (Warhammer Online anyone??), the hype train needed for sales, the customers, and the game "journalists", it's any wonder why the industry is the way it is right now.

Blogger JartStar October 02, 2015 9:25 AM  

There is little doubt that the person with the big ideas about the game and coming up with the innovating and cool features cannot be the guy who makes sure the game hits its goal release date. In fact the best teams probably have some serious tension between the designer and producer.

In what little game development I've done I find it only works well with a sense of urgency driven by release date and budget constraints. It pushes you to work harder and faster to make do with what you have on hand. It's just too damn easy to get caught up in features, art, and ideas and never get the thing out the door without the whip on your back as it were.

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 9:30 AM  

As a consumer, it absolutely feels like big studios are treating video games like movies.

Given how movie sales are...

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 9:33 AM  

We do new things all the time in my neck of the R&D woods and still get a product out the door in within a year...and that's with something a hell of a lot more complicated than a video game.

That's ridiculous. There is a reason why all the advanced technology companies work with the game developers first. We wrote the first 3D engines, we were the first to implement and apply many digital technologies. When real AI comes around, it will come out of the game dev community. There is a reason why most of the serious AI researchers are working with game developers in some capacity.

You clearly have no idea what goes into the average game these days. Now, granted, middleware makes it a lot easier these days. But game developers have been leading the way almost since the days of punch cards. Almost no one else has any need for the processing power we burn up and call for more.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 9:34 AM  

As a consumer, it absolutely feels like big studios are treating video games like movies.

They are. And they finance them like movies, which is part of the problem. That's why the potential failure of Star Citizen could be such a disaster.

Blogger Thomas Davidsmeier October 02, 2015 9:37 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 9:56 AM  

@VD
They are. And they finance them like movies, which is part of the problem.

It's not a big surprise. Both movies and the video game industry seem to prefer milking existing franchises until they've become lifeless husks and still trying to milk it even then, instead of trying to raise a crop of new IPs to eventually replace dying franchises.

Put in another way, big companies seem to be so risk-averse that they try to run their prize-winning racehorse into the grave *sooner* trying to get the profits, instead of breeding the next generation for when their prize-winner eventually bites the dust.

Blogger Carlos Eduardo Chies October 02, 2015 10:10 AM  

And that posts just make me look the Kojima x Konami debacle in a all new light... To much freedom on who does not control the purse is a recipe for an incomplete game where you can feel the potencial

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 10:10 AM  

"That's ridiculous."

Not really. There are other sectors in the high tech economy that need to be first to market or they don't win. Projects are measured in a 6-8 month timeframe. If my company ever took as long to develop a product as it's taken for things like Star Citizen, we'd be out of business.

"You clearly have no idea what goes into the average game these days. Now, granted, middleware makes it a lot easier these days. But game developers have been leading the way almost since the days of punch cards. Almost no one else has any need for the processing power we burn up and call for more."

That is true, but I wasn't talking about video games.

My point is that there are other R&D sectors that use software development and do it better than the video games industry...with less money and with better project management. Why? Because there is more of a rigorous accounting of customer requirements that control or stop things like...say...putting in an FPS module into Star Citizen when it has nothing to do with anything. It's interesting...for me at least...to think of reasons why this is the case, and I think it's because they think more like Hollywood and less like Microsoft or Google.

Blogger Red Jack October 02, 2015 10:12 AM  

It isn't just coding that has the problem between the idea guy and the project manager.

In my field (chemical engineering), things I have done have literally changed the industry. We are doing things that no on in the art is doing, and hitting numbers that most of our competitors think is impossible. However, once I get it out of the proof of concept phase, I am not the guy you need for the installation and making it pretty. I can do it, but I start trying to polish the process to then point where a simple brute force installation starts looking like a rocket launch.

I have a few guys who are great at that though. Not innovative, but great at saying "This far for now", and making it happen.

Blogger JartStar October 02, 2015 10:16 AM  

The biggest problem for game design now is art cost. No matter how you go about it, there are just hundreds of man hours involved in the simplest of games. You may get it a bit cheaper at some studios, but at the end of the day there's some person sitting at a desk doing a lot of work and it costs money. It takes an entire team just to make one 3D model with textures.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 10:16 AM  

It's interesting...for me at least...to think of reasons why this is the case, and I think it's because they think more like Hollywood and less like Microsoft or Google.

Again, you have completely no idea what you are talking about. The guys who think like Hollywood don't want ANYTHING new. They are the suits and they are in a permanent state of war with the designers.

The guys at Microsoft and Google think very highly of the designers and try to hire them whenever they can. They usually can't, because even they can't afford the really good ones. There are very few other fields where one genuinely creative hit means you never have to do it again, not even music.

That's why people shoveled over 90 million to Chris Roberts largely sight unseen.

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 10:31 AM  

"The guys who think like Hollywood don't want ANYTHING new. They are the suits and they are in a permanent state of war with the designers"

Yup. That's really a scandal and a shame. This probably the reason why, as a gamer, I've reverted back to rogue-like games like DCSS or Cogmind. You know...something that smells like the guy's basement and not the suits of the Hollywood types.

"That's why people shoveled over 90 million to Chris Roberts largely sight unseen."

...and that was foolish, albeit understandable.

Question for you Vox: You think No Man's Sky will hit the same issues?

Blogger Cataline Sergius October 02, 2015 10:33 AM  

I've read Chris Robert's response. As an outsider I've got to say it doesn't look promising.

A real pity, I was quite looking forward to Star Citizen.

In a perfect world, the project would be bought out and turned into a new Wing Commander by whoever owns the rights to that.

Tragically the owner of that fabled nameplate is EA games.

Blogger Wkd October 02, 2015 10:36 AM  

Ooh look another puppet of Smart ;) classy ;)

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 10:37 AM  

@darrenl
This probably the reason why, as a gamer, I've reverted back to rogue-like games like DCSS or Cogmind.

I've really enjoyed Tales of Maj'eyal. Had a ton of fun with that roguelike.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 10:41 AM  

Question for you Vox: You think No Man's Sky will hit the same issues?

No idea. I don't know them. But at least they don't have a long track record of failing to maintain focus on big-budget projects.

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 10:42 AM  

"I've really enjoyed Tales of Maj'eyal. Had a ton of fun with that roguelike."

...also really good. Dungeonmans is another good one as well, fyi. Kind of like ToME-light...but not, if you know what I mean.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 10:44 AM  

Ooh look another puppet of Smart ;) classy ;)

That doesn't even make any sense. I know Chris Roberts and I have known him for decades. I like and respect Chris Roberts. I barely know Derek Smart and have only been in contact with him for a few days. That doesn't make him wrong.

You don't seem to grasp that almost all of us like Chris and want him to be successful. Hugely successful. But we are worried by what we observe.

Blogger Nate October 02, 2015 10:47 AM  

"Both movies and the video game industry seem to prefer milking existing franchises until they've become lifeless husks and still trying to milk it even then, instead of trying to raise a crop of new IPs to eventually replace dying franchises."

This is valid criticism of Hollywood. This is not valid criticism of AAA studios. Yes... they milk their franchises... because we all want MOAR from those. but they sill product franchises as well. Unlike hollywood.

Blogger Nate October 02, 2015 10:48 AM  

"You don't seem to grasp that almost all of us like Chris and want him to be successful. Hugely successful. But we are worried by what we observe."

Nuh uh... see because thinking something might happen is exactly the same as wanting it to happen. dumb dumb.

Blogger Were-Puppy October 02, 2015 10:49 AM  

Shenmue 3? How did I not hear about this? I'm so out of touch :P

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 10:50 AM  

"You don't seem to grasp that almost all of us like Chris and want him to be successful. Hugely successful. But we are worried by what we observe."

+1

Blogger Krul October 02, 2015 10:56 AM  

@45 Nate - "This is valid criticism of Hollywood. This is not valid criticism of AAA studios. Yes... they milk their franchises... because we all want MOAR from those. but they sill product franchises as well. Unlike hollywood."

I've got to agree. You expect new video game franchises pretty regularly. Innovation is highly valued.

Whereas the only new franchises from Hollywood are old franchises from other industries (books comics, mainly). There are some new ideas from the Indie scene, but no franchises.

Blogger Danby October 02, 2015 11:15 AM  

Smells like every single failed project I've ever been involved in.
Not "code reset" bad, but definitely "lie to the management, no such thing as a bad feature" bad.
More than any other cause it's the refusal to say "no" or even "not yet" that kills software projects. What happens is you have a great idea, and you build the underpinnings, the engine, the structure of the program. Then someone comes up with another great idea, and you add that in, and six months later you have so many great ideas that the original structure won't support it. So you have to throw out all that work and start over again at the base level, and then rework every single piece built on that so that it works. And then someone comes up with another great idea......

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 11:18 AM  

This is valid criticism of Hollywood. This is not valid criticism of AAA studios. Yes... they milk their franchises... because we all want MOAR from those. but they sill product franchises as well. Unlike hollywood.

It's not about milking the franchises (which is fine when the cow is fresh), it's about milking it until it's dead, and not having gotten a new one before.

From having read interviews of developers, there is a serious impetus against new IPs from the AAA devs. When a game with a new IP *does* get made, there's internal workings against it and never as much support as it needs.

Despite how much you love Destiny, Nate, it's the odd duck out in that it's a new IP *and* it was well supported.

Blogger Skylark Thibedeau October 02, 2015 11:29 AM  

"The guys who think like Hollywood don't want ANYTHING new. They are the suits and they are in a permanent state of war with the designers"

Hollywood is run by accountants which is why you get reboots of TV Shows and Comic Books, and endless remakes of "The Three Musketeers", "Robin Hood", and "A Christmas Carol".

OpenID nativebaltimoron October 02, 2015 11:30 AM  

I think Chris's response was a bit hasty. He's responding to the article as if Derek Smart's the guy orchestrating the whole thing, which is orthogonal to the reason that Smart's criticisms are getting traction. People are skeptical because Star Citizen has grown into a huge project, funded off the sales of a whole bunch of virtual spaceships. While the project probably does have other revenue streams, crowdfunding is by far the most visible one; if people start asking for their money back en masse, it seems likely to get ugly.

If CR and company can push the single-player portion of the game out on time, and it's good, that'd allay a lot of the fears people have about where the project is going. In the end, though, I expect that the game won't clear the bar all the hype has set for it. I backed the game during its Kickstarter, and while I'm still hopeful it'll be completed, I certainly wouldn't give any more money than I already have.

Blogger Cataline Sergius October 02, 2015 11:34 AM  

@45 Nate - "This is valid criticism of Hollywood. This is not valid criticism of AAA studios. Yes... they milk their franchises... because we all want MOAR from those. but they sill product franchises as well. Unlike hollywood."

I agree. Even the little guys try to do that. Look at what Flying Wild Hog managed with some very old titles that had been moldering for years. Shadow Warrior was my favorite release that year.

Sometimes a company will take a franchise in the wrong direction and I don't like the result but that doesn't mean they weren't trying to protect the brand. Tomb Raider comes to mind. Good enough game, I suppose just not a good Tomb Raider game.

There are of course failures to protect a franchise from time to time. 2K should have just scrapped Duke Nukem Forever once they found out what they had got ahold of. Or if it would have been too embarrassing to continue that tradition of vaporware, rolled it out as a Ten dollar a copy PC only release on Steam. The fans and the critics would have adjusted their expectations accordingly. But making it a full price, full spectrum release was brand rape.

Probably the most heroic brand rescue I've seen in recent years was X-Com. The Bureau would have killed the franchise for a decade. I don't know for certain what went on behind the scenes but from the outside it looks like 2K knew they had a lemon on their hands. X-Com Enemy Unknown has all the hallmarks of a game that went into to release a little too quickly, minor clipping and POV problems. And I didn't mind any of it in the least. It was everything I wanted in X-Com. The Bureau is now a forgiven and forgotten footnote.

OpenID Steve October 02, 2015 11:38 AM  

Why are designers temperamentally unsuited for also producing?

People who think anything is possible oddly can get surprised that an unfireable black with only a high school diploma, in a make-work position since tech killed his original job, could shut down all the computers in a hospital for a week just by looking at a porn site with viruses. Grounded realists say things like "well this would be possible if everyone pulled their own weight, avoided pregnancy, was willing to work 60hr weeks, & not abuse the family medical leave act. "

Blogger Red Jack October 02, 2015 11:45 AM  

Cataline Sergius,,

Got "The Bureau" on a flash sale for $5. It was worth about $2.50.

Blogger Feather Blade October 02, 2015 11:46 AM  

@52: Hollywood is run by accountants which is why you get reboots of TV Shows and Comic Books

To be fair, Hollywood will happily produce "original" movies if they are degrading and offensive to the moral sensibilities of the majority of the populace.

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 11:52 AM  

"Why are designers temperamentally unsuited for also producing?"

It's not that they are unsuited. It's that they shouldn't be doing both. On average and for the most part, the guy who decides what features should be in the product can get himself into trouble if he's also the guy coding it. Much like, on average and for the most part, the guy who codes the feature can get himself into trouble if he's also the guy testing it.

tl;dr...there is a reason for the separation of duties within a typical software development process.

Blogger Travis Landenwitsch October 02, 2015 11:57 AM  

What are the chances nothing gets released at all? I've never taken the jump and donated to a crowd funded game, but I like the idea. Hopefully no matter the outcome it won't have too much of an effect on future crowd funding.

Blogger Krul October 02, 2015 11:59 AM  

"Whereas the only new franchises from Hollywood are old franchises from other industries (books comics, mainly). There are some new ideas from the Indie scene, but no franchises."

Come to think of it, Pixar produces new IPs which appear to have the potential to be lucrative franchises, but for some reason they rarely develop. You'd expect several sequels to the Incredibles by now, more so the fact that superhero films have been printing money for years now.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 12:03 PM  


It's not that they are unsuited.


It is that they are unsuited. The personality types are very, very different. Trying to do both merely compounds the problem.

What are the chances nothing gets released at all?

Virtually nonexistent. They will get something out. But probably not anything that people will think is worthy of a 25 million budget, let alone a 90 million one.

OpenID Jack Amok October 02, 2015 12:09 PM  

but back to the original post... if you're going to build a truley epic scale game in 2015.. it appears to me Bungie's plan is the most realistic way to accomplish it. Spend ten years selling, playing, and building the thing.

The fear that holds studios back on doing this is that games are a hit driven business (and that is at least partly a self-fulfilling prophecy based on how funding decisions are made). If the initial release isn't a hit, the assumption is it never will be and lots of moneymen want to pull the plug.

So the producer/designer is near-frantic to get enough special sauce into the game to make it a hit. The "finance games like movies" comments are spot on. The meetings to decide whether to fund the project (or keep funding it after an early milestone) are even called "Greenlight meetings". But instead of "we have to have an A-list star headlining the movie to 'guarantee' it doesn't bomb", games go for "we have to have super-cool (and groundbreaking) features X, Y and Z".

Of course it's a broken model and Nate is right studios should try something different. Small studios do all the time, but success and growth usually change them.

Blogger Danby October 02, 2015 12:12 PM  

The personality types are very, very different.

One asks "What's the coolest thing we could do?"
The other asks "How much money do we have left and what can we get done before the release date at the end of 2015?"

The designer says "We need another alien race to balance out multi-player."
The producer says "Sorry, the artwork alone will take another 5 months and cost us, conservatively a half million. Make do with what you have."

OpenID Jack Amok October 02, 2015 12:18 PM  

The personality types are very, very different.

It takes a certain amount of boldness - or irrational self-confidence if you'd rather - to think you can make something that will entertain people. It takes another skill set to competently manage a large team of people. Two different dice rolls, it's not impossible to roll a natural 18 on both, but it's much more rare than rolling one or the other. Usually large scale projects with a single shot-caller either end up with a self-confident leader who can't keep his team organized and the solution just never converges, or you have a competent manager who always thinks the design needs one more tweak before it's got a chance to succeed.

Blogger Cail Corishev October 02, 2015 12:21 PM  

He's responding to the article as if Derek Smart's the guy orchestrating the whole thing, which is orthogonal to the reason that Smart's criticisms are getting traction.

Yep. Fifteen years ago on Usenet, people would have argued with Derek Smart, PhD., if he said water was wet. If people are listening to him now, they certainly aren't taking his opinion on faith. It's because what he's saying fits what they're sensing elsewhere. They smell smoke and he's describing the fire.

It's always seemed to me that the hard part about having a project manager to control the developers is that the project manager has to understand the process well enough that the developers can't snow him. He has to know what's possible, what's reasonable, and how long things should actually take, which means he almost has to be a developer himself -- but then he might not be a good manager.

Blogger Nate October 02, 2015 12:25 PM  

"Despite how much you love Destiny, Nate, it's the odd duck out in that it's a new IP *and* it was well supported."

c'mon man... Rockstar isn't just pumping out GTAs... Red Dead Redemption was awesome. The big studios are all the time coming out with new franchises.

Blogger epobirs October 02, 2015 12:48 PM  

@26

The problem is that they're both software projects and creative endeavors much like movies at the same time. Both can go wrong in their own recognized ways and the intersection adds completely new ways to screw up. In effect, you've got two different kinds of project happening and they both must succeed for the product to be viable.

A more successful product that comes to mind is 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day.' This was a movie but involved a LOT of software development that was needed to do things that were then terra incognita. The guy who ran the coding side at ILM for the production remarked to Cinefex magazine that if they had to do another T2 it would cost half as much and take half as long because so much went into the software that was in wide use a few years later. Even if the new movie wanted to do more, it would be far easier starting with a working tool set and growing that.

Blogger epobirs October 02, 2015 12:59 PM  

@60

The one time Pixar did this, with the Cars franchise, they drove it into the ground. Disney saw that this was especially big with small children and felt they could get away exploiting the property for all it was worth.

The sequel to 'The Incredbles' is just now getting underway and will probably be the better for it. The main creative force behind it, Brad Bird, say some of it will be ideas that didn't make into the first because they'd have run long and lost focus but there is also the matter of Bird needing to do something else for a while. One of those things was the stinker 'Tomorrowland,' so it's likely just as well he held off until he felt really ready.

It may be to their advantage that they often use big A-list actors for voice talent and these people aren't available at Disney's beck and call. Otherwise they'd probably have done to more of the IPs what they did to Cars.

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 1:08 PM  

@Nate
c'mon man... Rockstar isn't just pumping out GTAs... Red Dead Redemption was awesome. The big studios are all the time coming out with new franchises.

Rockstar is also *not* like every other AAA developer. As far as I can tell, they embrace controversy much like South Park does. And Red Dead Redemption is not a new IP.

Blogger Nate October 02, 2015 1:16 PM  

Ok.. Bungie is an exception to your complaint... Rockstar is an exception to your complaint... what about Ubi? Farcry and Watchdogs...

I mean how many exceptions do you want?

Blogger Ostar October 02, 2015 1:30 PM  

Is Robert's one of those designers who has got infected with "I'm making a work of Art here, like a Film" mentality? The Full Motion Videos of the 90's, the bloated cutscenes of the 00's are examples, to the detriment of the game itself.

Blogger RCR_Chris October 02, 2015 1:41 PM  

@5
What Chris needed, in my opinion, was a powerful producer with the ability to tell him "no, Chris, we'll save that for version 2 or 3." The problem is that all designers CAN produce, they're just not very good at it. And the bigger the project, the more important the producer is.



Isn't the executive producer Erin Roberts?

Although, given that Erin is the "little brother", that would probably explain the lack of a producer that can say "No Chris, we'll save that...."

I wonder what a comparison of the development issues between BC3000 and StarCitizen would look like.... I know they both had feature/scope creep.... Wonder how much they shared in dealing with failing to say "no" to things...

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 1:47 PM  

Is Robert's one of those designers who has got infected with "I'm making a work of Art here, like a Film" mentality?

Yes, that's why I didn't like Wing Commander 3.

Blogger Dominic Saltarelli October 02, 2015 2:10 PM  

I've come to view video game hype the same way Warren Buffett views stock market enthusiasm.

Blogger Jack Ward October 02, 2015 2:17 PM  

Vox Day; a failed game developer. My wife was asking me, a few min. ago, why I was laughing so hard. I told her. I might possibly give up my best arm for one tenth the success Mr. Beale has had on just about everything he set his mind to. Well, maybe not political predictions so much. But, come on, we can't have the man walking on water.

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 2:19 PM  

@Nate
Ok.. Bungie is an exception to your complaint... Rockstar is an exception to your complaint... what about Ubi? Farcry and Watchdogs...

Farcry wasn't started by an AAA developer. Ubisoft did develop Watch Dogs however...

Hm, alright. It's not the case anymore that AAA companies aren't seeding the field for new IPs. I was wrong.

I'm of the personal opinion that this *used* to be the case however.

Blogger tweell October 02, 2015 2:20 PM  

Where are the Animaniacs when we really need them?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdyQQGq_sPU


OpenID 5e853438-3002-11e5-9e3c-f39b8f325c98 October 02, 2015 2:21 PM  

Kojima has been blowing the budget since MGS2. That game had entire huge modules that added absolutely nothing to the core gameplay (first person combat, guard reactivity to getting shot, swimming which got shoved in as an incredibly tedious
mid game never to be used again, enemy room scouring scripting which you will see maybe ONCE if you hide in a locker after being spotted.) He has gotten away with that nonsense for YEARS and only now with Konami getting out of the games business they are telling him to finish the game in time.

Blogger Krul October 02, 2015 2:21 PM  

@71 Ostar - "Is Robert's one of those designers who has got infected with "I'm making a work of Art here, like a Film" mentality?"

People who think that are making a basic error. Game creation is art - I believe - but it's a fundamentally different art form than cinema.

It's like if a director made a "movie" that was nothing but a long text scroll, then called it "artistic" because it's "more like literature". It would be crap, just like a "game" that consists mostly of non-interactive cutscenes is crap.

Blogger Athor Pel October 02, 2015 2:22 PM  

"34. Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 10:10 AM
...
putting in an FPS module into Star Citizen when it has nothing to do with anything.
..."



An FPS module would be a natural fit for the game world. CCP has done something very similar with Dust 541 and Eve Online.

The problem is that it is scope creep and splitting the attention of the dev team, not that it doesn't fit thematically.

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 2:25 PM  

(And to pointlessly answer the rhetorical question, three exceptions is normally what's needed to convince me.)

Blogger MidKnight (#138) October 02, 2015 2:28 PM  

@Danby
Smells like every single failed project I've ever been involved in.
Not "code reset" bad, but definitely "lie to the management, no such thing as a bad feature" bad.
More than any other cause it's the refusal to say "no" or even "not yet" that kills software projects.


Yeah. One valuable lesson I learned a long time ago was "learn to say no - what do you NOT do?"



As to Star Citizen, my first intro to it was someone telling me how it was going to be sooooo much better than Elite.

I started looking into it and immediately thought "wayy too much scope here"

It's one thing to design an expandable structure, and then build "one good thing" (space combat sim/trading universe) on top of it. And then keep iterating out the improvements.

But they had already bolted on far too many features, AND had just anounced the FPS aspects....


And Elite has at least shipped...

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 2:35 PM  

@Krul
Game creation is art - I believe - but it's a fundamentally different art form than cinema.

I've gone back and forth on this topic. I think you're on to something here, but it's worth pointing out that not every game is art, much like not every movie is art (see: workplace education videos) and not every piece of printed text is art (see: classified ads).

People who see everything as art, when they come to something that didn't *try* to be art, are then seeings things that are basically not there.

Blogger luagha October 02, 2015 2:48 PM  

Of the many daily brilliancies of this blog, you have answered Tom Wilson's question from Biff's Question Song:

"What does a producer do?"

OpenID Steve October 02, 2015 2:49 PM  

The personality types are very, very different.

GRRM could design the perfect Doritos chip but couldn't afford a pallet of the finished product. The best taste tester for ice cream wouldn't be good on the factory side.

The designer says "Obese black women are underrepresented.",
Producer says "lets just give all the black holes female names"

Blogger Andrew October 02, 2015 2:55 PM  

@epobirs
Hangar, Arena Commander (PvP), Vanduul (PvE), and the Social Module. Soon we have the FPS and mini universe simulation. I think they are on track to be the type of game you would back.

You mean a game that ships a hangar module to walk around in and see ships that you own as they are finished.
Or a game that releases a multiplayer simulated space combat game, in which you can fly ships from said hangar?
Or one that released a co-op space combat game to test it's AI?
Or a game that has released an early draft of a landing zone to explore and interact in?
You mean a game that is shortly releasing a smaller version of its bigger universe to test before rolling it out in a broader scope?
Possibly a game that will be releasing an FPS mode around the same time?

Is that a game that you are looking for?

Blogger Krul October 02, 2015 2:58 PM  

@83 SiB - "People who see everything as art, when they come to something that didn't *try* to be art, are then seeings things that are basically not there."

That's true, but I'd say the essential difference isn't whether the creators explicitly intended to create art or thought of themselves as artists.

One distinguishing characteristic of art is that it has no practical purpose. The contemplation of it, or the experience of it, is the whole point. That's why workplace education videos and classifieds aren't art; their purpose is to convey information.

Games in general share this characteristic - they have no practical function; their purpose is fulfilled when a person experiences them. The only exceptions I can think of are games whose purpose is training for some real world activity, or games who's purpose is social interaction.

Blogger MrJamesyboi October 02, 2015 3:05 PM  

VD:

What do you think of Line of Defense (Smarts game on steam) and its CS practices ?

Blogger Danby October 02, 2015 3:12 PM  

One distinguishing characteristic of art is that it has no practical purpose.

Modernist lie. Really.
Any thing done with an eye toward truth and beauty can be art. Any thing done to satisfy the artist's desire to do art is likely NOT art.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 3:19 PM  

What do you think of Line of Defense (Smarts game on steam) and its CS practices?

I have no opinion. I have never played one of his games.

Blogger Krul October 02, 2015 3:23 PM  

Reading comprehension, Danby. It isn't modernist or a lie.

Blogger Danby October 02, 2015 3:30 PM  

Which has more artistic value?
An Andy Warhol print or a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip?
A mediaeval chalice or a Jackson Pollock painting?
The Book of Kells or Piss Christ?

The idea that art must be useless and self-consciously art is a very modern idea, and it's a lie.

Blogger Student in Blue October 02, 2015 3:31 PM  

@Krul

I think the big problem with video games as art, is with art itself.

Art, as it is currently, is based only on how you feel. It's formless and without definition. And since it's based on feels...

Blogger MrJamesyboi October 02, 2015 3:55 PM  

VD:

"Derek Smart has a reputation for spectacular failure in the industry, but it's not really a fair one, and more importantly, that particular failure took place >> a long time ago <<"

And you don't think you should maybe check out his current game before defending him?

here is a link to a video of his current game

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlYGgju1R2o

I agree that there may be problems at CIG but defending DS is idiotic.

Blogger Krul October 02, 2015 3:56 PM  

"The idea that art must be useless and self-consciously art is a very modern idea, and it's a lie."

You're not hearing me, mate. Art does have a purpose - in fact it has a vitally important purpose - but not a PRACTICAL purpose. In other words, it's supposed to feed your soul, as opposed to practical communication that feeds your mind, or practical work that feeds your body. Get me?

Blogger Cail Corishev October 02, 2015 4:06 PM  

Yeah. One valuable lesson I learned a long time ago was "learn to say no - what do you NOT do?"

I used to have business cards that said, "I don't do Windows."

Blogger SirHamster (#201) October 02, 2015 4:17 PM  

The problem is that all designers CAN produce, they're just not very good at it. And the bigger the project, the more important the producer is.

What are the main obstacles to them hiring a producer?

Is it ego? "I know how to do this myself"
Is it power? "I don't want someone else second guessing my decisions"


I'm setting some parallel here between other domains - success is not just talent and resources, but constraints, and the tension between what you have and not having enough.

If so, that would suggest that preserving constraints is just as important as getting talent and resources. So when building a team, besides getting an idea guy and an implementation guru, you need a "No man".

Blogger darrenl October 02, 2015 4:24 PM  

"An FPS module would be a natural fit for the game world. CCP has done something very similar with Dust 541 and Eve Online. "

The example of Dust 514 kind of makes the point that you stick to what you're good at.

Dust...IMHO...was a terrible idea, especially for a company like CCP who has a hard enough time following through on features as it is. Although it's ok...ish now, it was a really rough start and caused quite a bit of "shuffling" in the company (...wink wink...). To this day, I still scratch my head over the console exclusive nature of the game.

Blogger Banjo October 02, 2015 4:43 PM  

@84 luagha: Buthead.

@Nate: Thanks to you and Brad, I went out and got Destiny TTK and a PS4 to run it on and NOW I'm running on about 3 hours of sleep for the last week.. But hey, I've got a level 15 Warlock and 13 Titan to show fer it.

I really wanted to contribute back when SC was started, but I just didn't think it could possibly be made in the given time frame. And this from someone who DID back CastAR...



Blogger Markku October 02, 2015 5:26 PM  

This is going to be Duke Nukem Forever 2.

Blogger Floyd Looney October 02, 2015 6:24 PM  

I really would have liked to play this game, too.

Blogger Floyd Looney October 02, 2015 6:35 PM  

Just compare the price and product and time line for Elite:Dangerous. I still hope they actually make the originally promised game some day.

Blogger Markku October 02, 2015 6:40 PM  

Elite: Dangerous made the right choice and has very ambitious long-term goals, such as being able to move FPS on planets and spacestations. But all that is going to paid DLC's, and for the core game they just re-made the original but in much larger scale.

Blogger Markku October 02, 2015 6:44 PM  

So, if the long-term vision doesn't materialize, there will be some disappointment, but nobody is going to be royally pissed off. They already got what they paid for.

Blogger VD October 02, 2015 7:00 PM  

And you don't think you should maybe check out his current game before defending him?

No. Because I'm not concerned about him, I'm concerned about the issues he has raised. Trying to make Smart the issue is an evasion. He is not the issue.

Blogger RCR_Chris October 02, 2015 7:00 PM  

@104
Have to agree with that Markku. I think the alleged "misuse of funds" and work environment complaints are far less of a reason to be worried about SC than the way CIG seems to fail to consider long and short term like Braben has.

I'm not in game dev, so don't pretend to be an expert, but the way they keep adding or changing things to get as close to Robert's "vision" as possible for the (someday) release, rather than getting the core released looks responsible for a huge amount of the delays.

The main reason I haven't gotten Elite Dangerous yet is the price and the fact that all the ships look like flying tortilla chips or angular flying saucers.

Blogger automatthew October 02, 2015 7:11 PM  

Trying to make Smart the issue is an evasion.

Whenever the enemy cries "ad hominem!" you can be sure it wasn't one. Whenever the enemy commits an ad hominem, you can be sure they'll double down.

Blogger Steve, the Dark Ninja of Mockery October 02, 2015 7:32 PM  

Elite: Dangerous was a success. David Braben did what he said he was going to do, and shipped a working game more or less when he said he was going to ship it.

It's suffered from some bugs and annoyances, but they've been streadily improved. New content has been added. The core space flight / exploration / trading / combat model works.

It's not everybody's cup of tea, and can be repetitive, but I like it. Zooming around the galaxy, shooting up pirates and seeing cool new astronomical objects is fun. It's the game I wished I was playing when flying my Imperial Clipper at 10 fps of flat, textureless polygons in Frontier.

Star Citizen reminds me of DayZ - another game that's been in paid early access for years, with painfully little to show for it. SC was supposed to be complete by November 2014, and now they're saying it'll be out in 2017. Oh dear.

But try telling that to the SC fanboys. They're more rabid than the Star Wars fans who defended The Phantom Menace when it first came out. They'd hyped themselves up for a new Star Wars film for so long that, when it came out and was shit, cognitive dissonance kicked in. In SC's case it's worse, because its fans have sunk so much money into the project and still haven't gotten a game out of it.

So they're shooting the messenger. No! Jar-Jar and midi-chlorians and windy trade negotiations are awesome! It's Derek Smart who sucks!

Coming soon: the Star Citizen Kool Aid module.

Blogger Steve, the Dark Ninja of Mockery October 02, 2015 8:01 PM  

Kojima has been blowing the budget since MGS2

Yes.

But his games have always eventually shipped, and been worth the wait... for the players, if not the bean counters at Konami.

And they've left indelible memories in the minds of the fans. That battle with Psycho Mantis. The multiple WTF? moments of Guns of the Patriots. The crazy brilliance of Snake Eater, which is like James Bond on a magic mushrooms and saki bender.

The Phantom Pain is his best game yet. It's utterly brilliant. From the moment Midge Ure starts singing from your Walkman at the start, you're hooked into yet another rollicking, addictive, cheesily dramatic and wonderfully Japanese adventure.

And Kojima's auteurial OCD means that his games are filled with little moments of wonder that add to their replay value. Like when you stare at Meryl long enough to make her blush. Or spin Naked Snake's avatar in the status screen to make him disgorge the rotten python meat you unwisely made him eat. Or finding girlie posters inside enemy lockers. Or getting your horse to shit in the middle of the road to annoy Soviet patrols. Or a thousand other things that make Metal Gear games special.

Blogger Markku October 02, 2015 8:09 PM  

It's the game I wished I was playing when flying my Imperial Clipper at 10 fps of flat, textureless polygons in Frontier.

Still, in Frontier you could do the one thing that is at this point merely a promise for E:D - go fly/lift off from planet surface without any kind of a transition scene. It's just one "little" technical thing, but I feel like it vastly increases the psychological sense of scale. Like the planets are not just a hi-tech equivalent of sprites, just a cosmetic stand-in for a gravity field, but are really there in all their immense size.

OpenID Jack Amok October 02, 2015 11:27 PM  

One distinguishing characteristic of art is that it has no practical purpose.

No.

The difference between art and, say, engineering, is that in engineering you can at least in theory solve an equation before you build the thing and know whether it will work or not. If you're building a bridge, there's an equation to tell you how thik the support cables need to be. Sure, you might miss something important, like shedding eddies (c.g. Galloping Gertie), but for the known stuff, you have equations. Art has no such equations - it may have best practices, guidelines and conventions, but fundamentally there is no equation you can solve that tells you whether you should use a slightly darker shade of green right there or not. Or whether you should include Healer and Ranger classes in the design, or just go with Tank and Mage classes...

When someone says "game development is an art, not a science", they don't mean game development is something you hang on a wall.

Is it ego? "I know how to do this myself"
Is it power? "I don't want someone else second guessing my decisions"


It's concern. "I don't want someone who doesn't understand what's really important screwing up my work." How much of that concern is warranted and how much is egocentric varies from case to case.

Blogger Markku October 02, 2015 11:39 PM  

When you hire a producer, you hire a give-a-shit for one major area of the product. The plan was never feasible? Too bad. An engineer doesn't give a shit. He gets paid either way, and you're not paying him enough to give a shit. Give-a-shits for large projects are expensive, because you don't get to check out of them after you've put your eight hours of work.

So, you hire someone to give a shit, or you try to give two shits. One for the realism of your plan and its adaptability to unforeseen events, AND the design. But very few people can give two shits without going cuckoo.

Blogger SciVo October 03, 2015 1:05 AM  

So when building a team, besides getting an idea guy and an implementation guru, you need a "No man".

I have also heard that teams should include a "plant" who would have an opinion on everything, to move things along on topics where everyone else was indifferent, and then dump him once all those decisions had been made (since he's difficult to work with). Sounded practical but exploitative.

Blogger Mindstorm October 03, 2015 5:56 AM  

@54 As the X-Com franchise goes, Apocalypse could be worse. It it had certainly under-par graphics, especially with that awfully implemented shadows and washed-out color palette, but I mourn many features of the 'city sim' layer that were buried in development. The idea of tailing corporation VIPs to protect them from aliens was a fun to consider.

Blogger Markku October 03, 2015 6:21 AM  

I absolutely agree. The pausable real-time mode was absolute genius. I never even tried Apocalypse in turn-based mode. The X-Com model was so perfect that I couldn't imagine it could be improved, and yet it was.

But in all other regards, the game lacked soul.

If only we could combine Apocalypse's game mechanic with the original Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense.

Blogger Mindstorm October 03, 2015 2:01 PM  

@115 For example I liked very much that aliens could flee the battle when routed. Killing tougher units by dropping a ceiling on them was also nice. :) Armors parts that were swappable during battle, ammo clips that fired off if caught in an explosion, fun with instant teleportation later in the game.... The title had lots of potential.

Blogger Markku October 03, 2015 7:47 PM  

Recognize THESE scary aliens, as named by the Apocalypse review of the biggest Finnish video game magazine?

-Blue penismen
-Donald Ducks

Blogger Mindstorm October 03, 2015 8:52 PM  

@117
I admit I would need a little refresher:
http://lparchive.org/X-COM-Apocalypse/Update%201/
There was also a psi-wielder type alien that looked like a hovering yellow inflatable doll. Anticlimactic, isn't it?

Blogger Markku October 04, 2015 1:06 AM  

Many blue penismen, but failed to locate a single Donald Duck (the droid enemy)

Blogger AJ October 04, 2015 3:59 PM  

The current status of SC does look worrying,but..
Derek Smart's extreme hostility towards SC does seem a bit like a cheap PR grab for his current projects.
He hasn't been relevant for YEARS, and all of a sudden he has gotten a lot of attention by all of his hammering on SC.

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