If there’s anything overproduced by the game industry, it’s unconsidered rants.

28 02 2007

Just discovered Magical Wasteland a annoymous blog with some very insightful posts.
I will be posting some extracts here over the next few days for those who cannot be bothered to go and read the long but rewarding posts.

On the Problems with the Manifesto of Manifesto Games

Over a year ago, a company called Manifesto Games was founded with the idea that it would aggregate and sell low-budget but innovative games and by doing so help to advance the state of the game industry. While I have yet to see a new genre of games spring from this site, I do generally like and agree with the idea of invention as an essential but under-explored component of interactive entertainment.Unfortunately, for all the talk of revolution (or even incremental improvement), the level of rhetoric actually displayed on the site is quite disappointing. The hyperbole in the actual Manifesto of Manifesto Games may be explained away as a stylistic choice, but the tract often crosses over into statements that are simply untrue. I believe it’s imprudent to base the foundation for a revolution, or even simply a new company, on such sloppy thinking

Breaking down some of the details:

“The large publishers’ desperate quest to reduce risk paradoxically makes it harder for them to find the best-sellers they need.”Actually, the “desperate quest” is called a strategy, and it works almost disappointingly well from a business standpoint: ask Mr. Kotick of Activision, or look at their quarterly results for the past ten years. There is no evidence I am aware of that suggests otherwise.

“Today, most games are developed in massive sweatshops by hundreds of people over three years or more.”

As before, I don’t have data readily available, but this statement strikes me as an emotional accusation that is not exactly borne out by the true state of things. It may describe some Electronic Arts projects or a few massively multiplayer online games. But to boldly state that “most” games are developed this way plays with the truth in a rather elastic way.

Dan Marchant’s mythical developer royalty

28 02 2007

Dan Marchant (Obscure) presents his formulae for getting a developer royalty (read – never !)

The myth of the developer royaltyPop quiz – Your game costs $1 million to develop (funded by the publisher in the form of an advance against royalties).

Your publisher gets $10 (net sales) for every copy of your game they sell.
You (the developer) get 15% of net sales.
If your game sells 500,000 units how much money do you get in royalties?

The math is simple. 15% of $10, multiplied by 500,000 equals zero.

It goes on here.

Dan explains the reason most developers miss the boat when it comes to royalties and repayments in a clear and quite detailed manner.

So what’s the solution Dan?

There are various options but the simplest is to build 20% profit into your development costs and manage your project properly.

But this is why most publishers try and knock 20% off the price, as they want you to only break even.

and the most sensible advice of all…

Ensure that if the publisher requires changes that they pay for them and that you don’t spend your profit making the game better in the hope of making more in royalties.

Yes, it is possible for a game to sell millions of units and for the developer to make millions, even under a recoupment deal – but how many games are released each year (in excess of 3,000) and how many make the huge numbers (one, maybe two)? You need to run your company on the assumption that it will conform to the rule and not in the hope that it will be the exception.

You need to make your game based on a plan that will generate real profit, not mythical royalties.

Games Journalists Style Guide

28 02 2007

Games Journalists Association has announced the forthcoming release of a new guide for writers in the games industry.

Titled Wired Style: The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual, the book has been written by David Thomas, Kyle Orland and Scott Steinberg. It will offer guidance on spelling conventions and game criticism, plus company information and historical timelines.

The Videogame Style Guide will be released on June 1, priced at US $6 (eBook), US $14.95 (paperback) and US $24.95 (hardback). Review copies will be available next month. It will be available free for a limited time to members of the press. To pre-order, visit GameStyleGuide.com.

Second life gets a voice

28 02 2007

As PC’s and consoles grow ever closer:

it was announced that Linden Lab will integrate the Vivox voice services into the fabric of Second Life. Second Life Residents will be able to speak with one another simply by walking up to other Residents and talking. There will be no need for a separate application, download, or login. Much like the experience of the Million Minutes program run this past fall by Vivox in-world when several Residents gathered around the microphones for group conversations. But now, no need to download a separate application. Spatial audio is also a feature and will allow residents to hear each other based on their positions – on their left, right, far away or nearby. Other capabilities will include controls for both Residents and land owners to manage participation in conversations, friends lists, presence, speaking indicators and tools that will allow people to stay connected in and out of world.

Second Life plans to start a private Beta in the next couple of weeks.

This is a tremendous step for Second Life and for Vivox. Real time communication gives users a lot of choice and opportunities to connect.

Sony release new tool set at GDC

28 02 2007

The internal technology teams at Sony Computer Entertainment have teamed up to deliver PlayStation 3 Edge, a new set of tools for developers working on the format-holder’s new console.
Due for imminent release to PS3 developers, PlayStation 3 Edge has been put together by three first-party technology teams within Sony, the WWS Europe Advanced Technology Group, WWS America ICE team (a technology group based at Naughty Dog that specialises in graphics systems and tools for the PlayStation 3), and WWS America Tools and Technology group.

Edge is described as “a set of cutting edge technologies. Rather than an overarching engine, these teams have chosen to create specialized systems that demonstrate best practices of SPU and RSX utilization” in the description of a recently announced GDC session which will formally take the wraps off the new technology.

The GDC session, hosted by Mark Cerny (Cerny Games), Jon Olick (lead programmer, Naughty Dog) and Vince Diesi (principal programmer, SCE Worldwide Studios) looks at advanced graphics tools and technologies for PS3 development an will also show delegates “a unique tool for RSX performance analysis, extensively used in the tuning of first party titles”.


SCI buys Rockpool (NW)

28 02 2007

Casual Games continues to be a hot purchase for global pulishers.
But how much did bejeweled actually make ?

Publisher SCi continues to bolster its development resources, having just acquired British casual and mobile games developer Rockpool games.
The 36-strong team and its two offices in London and Manchester now join the SCi/Eidos fold which includes Crystal Dynamics, Beautiful Game Studios and IO Interactive.Acquiring the studio means the publisher gains a foothold in the fast-growing casual games sector and also takes ownership of Rockpool’s sister companies Ironstone Partners and SoGoPlay, which gives the firm access to, respectively, the Top Trumps licence and a casual games publishing portal.

A week ago the company announced that it would open a new next-gen games studio in Canada’s Montreal.

“The global market for mobile games is set to grow considerably over the next few years,” commented Jane Cavanagh, CEO of SCi, citing Juniper Research that says the sector will grow from $3bn in 2006 to $10bn in 2009.

She added: “Rockpool’s breadth of activity, including not only mobile games but casual PC games, fits well with SCi’s strategy to expand the company’s business in this direction and will strengthen our position in these consistently growing markets.”

Rockpool brings us a rich pool of talent along with a proven ability to deliver high-quality projects. In addition to their continued work on external projects, we look forward to bringing their experience and creativity to bear on some of our own titles over the coming months,” added Simon Protheroe, director of Eidos’ New Media and IT division, which Rockpool will be integrated into.

Rockpool MD Paul Gouge commented: “Being part of the SCi family means that we can accelerate our growth and build on the great achievements we have already made in the mobile, casual and wider games market.”


Dev Station 07

28 02 2007

SCEE’s developer-only event DevStation returns in May with a three-day conference targeting PlayStation 3 development.

Taking place from Wednesday May 2nd until Friday May 4th in London, UK, the event is designed to help industry development delegates “get the most out of PlayStation 3”.

The 2007 will hope to continue the sucess of previous DevStations that have packed in developers looking for the inside track on PlayStation-related software development.

Presentations at the May event will focus around the core technologies and, in a DevStation first, provide content for disciplines in design, production, art, audio and programming. Topics up for discussion will include, says DevStation reps, “anywhere from physics, SPU optimisation and audio tricks right through to the lastest developments with the PlayStation Network”.

The event will also bring SCEE’s Technology, Developer Support and Third-Party Relations groups all together with SN Systems and a number of middleware producers.
Those interested in attending should head over to http://www.devstation.scee.com and register.

Rockstar sign Natural Motion for PS3, 360 Project

28 02 2007

Rockstar Games is using NaturalMotion’s Euphoria engine in its next-generation PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 titles.
The two companies have revealed that work is already well underway following several months of close collaboration between the Grand Theft Auto publisher and the Oxford-based animation specialist.
“In Rockstar, we have found a partner that shares this vision, and is renowned for creating some of the most ground-breaking and immersive games in the industry,” commented Torsten Reil, CEO of NaturalMotion. “Euphoria is about giving people an interactive experience they have never seen before. We now have the processing power to simulate humans, and the possibilities for games are endless,” he said.

Expanded Dare to be Digital 2007 calls for entries

23 02 2007

The University of Abertay’s computer games design competition for students, Dare to be Digital, has launched for an eighth year with a significantly expanded schedule and a call for entries.

Having established itself as a key event for the education and games sector, the contest returns for 2007 stronger than ever as the organisers aim to invite 80 or more young game developers from across the UK and Ireland to take part this year – almost twice as many as in 2006.

To capture so many potential candidates, Dare to be Digital will roll out to other locations across the British Isles. Four teams from Scotland will be selected to spend the first nine weeks of the 10-week competition based at Abertay University designing and building a fully functioning prototype of their video game idea. Also, Queen’s University in Belfast will host a similar nine-week programme for students from the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Dare to be Digital organisers are currently working to establish a host location in England, or to host English teams in Dundee for the competition.

Elaine Russell, Abertay University’s project manager for Dare to be Digital, said: “There are now more reasons than ever for teams to get together and enter Dare. The track record of previous participants shows how very highly regarded it is within the computer games industry. This year, we have received many enquiries even before the application form was ready. This early sign of enthusiasm shows the increasing popularity of the competition.”

Entrants teams receive financial support and weekly training sessions from industry specialists during the 10-week competition. Some teams from previous years have gone on to set up their own game development studios while many other entrants have gone on to work at companies such as Lionhead, Rockstar, Codemasters, BBC Scotland, Electronic Arts and Microsoft, as well as local Dundee-based developers such as Realtime Worlds and Denki.

Added Russell: “We want to celebrate the young talent from all university courses that represent a pipeline for bringing top graduates to the video games industry. We want to do that in a way that adds value to their CVs, provides them with experience of working in interdisciplinary teams, teaches them new skills and showcases their achievements effectively. We want to ensure that there are maximum opportunities for all potential employers to evaluate the talent pool.

“We also want to inspire, promote and celebrate creativity and originality. We want our participants to have a positive economic impact when they move on from Dare to be Digital either through employment or entrepreneurial activity. Dare’s popularity is increasing year by year and has attracted many more talented individuals to apply. We have gained much industry support and wish to see more. This is a fantastic project worth supporting.”

Applications for Dare to be Digital 2007 should be made via http://www.daretobedigital.com

Circle closure and the local talent

23 02 2007

Studios based in the Midlands have already begun recruiting staff from CiRCLE Studio, GamesIndustry.biz revealed today.

Staff at the Derby-based developer could soon be recruited by a number of studios in the region, including Free Radical Design, Swordfish Studios, Rebellion and Eurocom.

“The closure of CiRCLE Studios means that we are now talking to some ex-CiRCLE employees,” confirmed David Doak, director of Free Radical Design, based in Nottingham.

CEO of Rebellion, Jason Kingsley, also revealed the company is currently in talks with members of the CiRCLE team, stating: “We’re talking to some selected individuals who have sent in CVs direct to our Rebellion Derby [offices].”

Although a studio closure can be bad news for the industry as a whole, Doak sees the opportunity to recruit skilled staff and keep them in a region well-populated with some of the UK’s world-class development teams.

“Whilst the closure of a studio is obviously unfortunate for those involved, it does present an interesting opportunity for recruitment,” said Doak.

“A number of skilled and experienced people who may have been quite happy in their jobs are now looking for new work. The challenge for us is to find the good ones.”

Sources close to CiRCLE revealed that Birmingham developer Swordfish Studios is another interested party, demoing a new title at the studio the very afternoon that employees had been informed of their redundancy.

Swordfish had clearly been made aware of the impending crisis, allowing them to prepare a pitch to recruit key personnel and keep staff in employment.