Stupid Reasons

31 08 2007

Dan Marchant has been in the games industry for a long time, and knows his stuff. He’s been writing a series of posts about stupid reasons to go into game development. Here’s an excerpt from part 4:

The assumption seems to be that there are a huge number of developers out there who simply don’t care if their game is good and thus it will be easy for a new team to come in and do well.

In my experience that is almost never the case. I have worked with a many, many different teams on a wide variety of product types including original games, conversions and licensed games and in almost every case the developers care deeply about the game they are making. So, if developers start out with the best intentions for the games they make, how come so many games end up being lacklustre? Could it be that making great games is actually rather hard? Could there be a reason for all the poor games out there? Actually I can think of 10 reasons just for starters….

David Cameron: Violent Games = Social Decline

28 08 2007

Mere days after the conservative party voiced support for the games industry, David Cameron is banging the social decline drum. Rather predictably, video games are being dragged into it:

“Today’s document sets out our view on popular culture – that the companies which make music videos, films and computer games have a social responsibility not to promote casual violence, the gang culture and the degradation of women,”

It’s being widely reported that he “wants to ban violent games”, but to be fair, he’s not actually singling them out.

Manhunt 2 gets US release

24 08 2007

PS2, PSP and Wii releases in the US this October.
The game will be released in North America on October 31 following the submission of a modified version of Manhunt 2. What’s been cut we don’t know yet. Nor do we know what the deal is in Europe.

Conservatives support game academy

24 08 2007

It’s all happening in white hall – wii or no wii.

“I think that the games industry and games culture can play a very positive role in the development of young people. I have read with great interest about the UK’s first ever ‘games academy’ that has been created by three universities in collaboration with leading companies in the industry. This will not only have a positive effect on youngsters as they will be offered scholarships and work experience, but also the industry, who will be able to benefit from highly trained new employees. “

Jeremy Hunt Shadow Secretary of State for Culture – Conservative Party

The government is supporting GAMES, honestly.

24 08 2007

THE GOVERNMENT has reaffirmed its commitment to the games industry and announced plans for further economic support, after the Conservative Party claimed that Labour was not doing enough to support the sector in last week’s MCV.
Speaking exclusively to MCV, Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism said:

“We have definitely begun to more fully recognise and articulate the contribution of video games to the UK economy as a whole. We are investing heavily in supporting skills development particularly through the sector skills councils and UKTI has in recent years concentrated closely on the video games sector with, for example, missions and events around trade shows.”

Hodge went on to say that further money has been earmarked for the industry as part of a wider support scheme.

“The Creative Economy Programme is exploring how Government can support the creative industries in general, This will examine market
drivers such as skills, innovation and competition. The games industry is a significant sector within this work. Of course we want to
do what we can to sustain and grow the video games industry in the UK. We are keeping the global competitive environment under close review.”

Pixel-lab and Tiga have been feeding into this green paper.

More here – look out for the obligatory centre of excellence question. 🙂


23 08 2007

Oxford based middleware provider NaturalMotion have been working closely with quite a few developers worldwide, including RockStar and LucasArts, to integrate fluid procedural animation into their games. Today, they announced their own game IP: Backbreaker.

It sounds like it’s going to be more an arcade game than a sports simulation, which certainly suits the disaster-porn-esque rough and tumble of colliding bodies that NaturalMotion’s software is so good at. Indeed, the entire trailer for it focusses on tackling.

While it’s not necessarily my kind of game, I’m pleased to see it. The UK has slipped to 4th biggest game developer in the world from 3rd. The dollar rate is squeezing UK developers. We still have the development talent and critical mass to launch new IP, but it’s a fire that needs fanning.

Crytek Respond to Proposed Legislation

23 08 2007

This is an interesting counterpoint to the earlier post about Leipzig trying to tempt studios away from the UK. German developer Crytek, in response to proposed German laws on violent games, have said they would relocate to a different country if they were passed:

The largest German video games developer Crytek is threatening to move abroad if production of so-called killer games is banned. “We would leave Germany”, said company founder Avni Yerli to Welt online before the start of the branch trade show Games Convention in Leipzig

He carries on:

“Budapest is a lovely city. We already have a branch office there”, explained Yerli. In addition, they have been regularly approached by the ministries of economics of other countries. “Especially England, Scotland, Austria and Singapore are very active.”

Games Stories Should Remain Simple?

23 08 2007

Coverage of the storytelling panel at Leipzig is on Gamesindustry. The overall outcome seems to be the conclusion that game stories shouldn’t be more complex, because games don’t live up to it:

For Rolston, when asked about whether games should try to be less linear and more complex with their storylines, it was “the worst idea I ever heard,” because “games aren’t any good at it.”

The reason for this is down to “our inability to pay off on all the choices that there should be available. It’s so difficult to make a genuinely complex dramatic choice.”

Bates echoed the sentiment, and compared the problem for videogames to that of a fiction novel.

“As an author of a story you have to push a character into doing things it wouldn’t want to do in order to grow the character. As a game designer it’s not fair to make the player have to do that.”

For Rolston the most effective method comes with the use of ambiguity – a history suggested by non-specific ruins or artefacts, for which the player is able to supply his or her own narrative.

But Bates was sceptical on that point, and was critical of most backstory execution today.

“What passes for story in most games is just revealed backstory, and that is really that. It can provide some context, but fundamentally it’s uninteresting. I want what’s in my mind to poison your mind, and that’s not going to happen with ambiguity.”

All interesting stuff, and perfectly valid criticism of the state of games right now, but what they’re pointing to with the idea more advanced stories seems to be a very different type of game to anything we’ve so far known and loved as “games”. That’s not a bad thing at all, but when you look at just how poor us humans are at evaluating probabilities, as well as our tendency to post-rationalise any kind of bad but costly decisions, it points to a form of game that could be a baffling and introspective experience.

Certainly closer to “art” than “game”, and it’s probably not the kind of entertainment anyone would want to grab hold of for five minutes on the tube, or an hour after the kids have gone to bed.

Sumo acquired by Foundation 9

20 08 2007

The US 8, UK 0.  Another loss to US investors.

Foundation 9 Entertainment has bought Sheffield-based developer Sumo Digital for an undisclosed sum.

Sumo has previously worked on titles as diverse as Outrun 2, Broken Sword and the PlayStation Network title Super Rub ‘a’ Dub, and recently established a development facility in Pune, India. The studio will be the first overseas software house owned by the development conglomerate.

As part of the deal, Sumo CEO James North-Hearn will become MD of Foundation 9 Europe and will be in charge of overseeing all European operations – implying that Foundation 9 are looking to acquire more studios this side of the Atlantic.

Sumo Digital will join Amaze Entertainment, Backbone Entertainment, The Collective, Digital Eclipse, ImaginEngine, Pipeworks and Shiny Entertainment as part of the Foundation 9 group.

The transaction is expected to be finalised in the third quarter of 2007.

Conservatives look to attract gamer developers?

20 08 2007

“The UK development industry is under ‘great’ threat from a skillset crisis and the exodus of talent abroad – and the Government simply isn’t doing enough to stop it.”
That was the message from the Conservative Party this week, as it made a landmark attempt to build bridges with the UK’s interactive entertainment business.  Shadow secretary of state for culture Jeremy Hunt exclusively revealed to MCV that David Cameron’s Tories were planning to:

+ Discuss new proposals for tax breaks for the UK industry;
+ Formulate economic policy to “specifically benefit” both large and small games companies;
+ Advocate a “more robust IP framework” to protect publishers from piracy.
The news will put fresh pressure on Labour to implement new policy to financially benefit domestic studios, after the UK recently dropped below Canada in the global development-related employment table.

“The UK games industry is a vitally important part of our economy,” Hunt told MCV. “Government needs to do all they can to support this sector and allow it to flourish.

“One of the greatest threats facing the UK industry at present is certainly the shortage of suitably trained graduates. Also, many of our top talent are going abroad to places such as Canada where companies are offered [more appealing] incentives.
“Tax breaks for the games industry similar to those experienced by the film industry, could go some way to remedying this situation and this is something I will be discussing with my colleagues in the Conservative Treasury team.”

We wonder how much of this ‘insightful understanding’ comes from their own research or from trade body lobbyists ?

Graduates is not one of the UK’s problems. Economic environment is, and  how much can the tories really do about this ?