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Old 06-19-2009, 02:48 PM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default An Open Letter on the State of Video Games

Senior Editor Brett Thomas has been spending a lot of time analyzing the video games industry recently, and come up with an interesting set of findings. In an open letter to the entire sector, he discusses the challenges facing gaming, the quickly changing landscape and some strategies to keep things growing.

You can read through Brett's opinion on the state of gaming here and discuss it here! This is a topic that affects a lot of visitors to the site, so don't be afraid to voice your own suggestions or concerns!
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Old 06-19-2009, 08:59 PM   #2
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Default Almost right

Your correct on the gamers growing up point to some extent. I am 43, played pong, Atari etc. I love FPS games, would rather be castrated then play a WoW type game, do not own a console, a hand held, and do not play games on my phone.

The splinters you mention are not so much age specific as they are tech age specific.

I agree with making games more story driven, in a down-loadable format, and just more fun, the problem is that the market is becoming LESS intelligent rather then smarter, and the industry goes where the market is. TV and movies are doing the same thing.

You could have shortened this entire "letter" to 4 simple words:

"Do what Valve Does".
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Old 06-19-2009, 10:18 PM   #3
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Well, the splinters that I talk about in the market have very little to do with age at all, and much more to do with favorite game types. Many people are just like you seem to be, in a variety of formats. Some like FPS games - personally, it's the last thing I enjoy. Some like RTS, others like TBS, still others like RPG. So many different games, so many more ways to produce them. Some like mobile formats, others PC, others console.

What remains true for almost all of them is that the average buyer now does not have time for 40-80 hours of play. I don't want everyone to simply "do as Valve does," though Valve does certainly have a great part of this market covered. There's more that Valve ISN'T doing, including spreading their great concepts to more genres.

I'd like to think the audience isn't dumbing down, because the major point of my article is that we're not developing some new set of gamers - it's the same gamers, just older. So to say that this market is dumbing, is kind of insulting you and I!

Anyhow, thank you for the response, I'm glad to know there's some common thought. But don't give the concepts up just because it seems people are dumbing down - let's be honest, most good games aren't coming out in formats that fit our lives now!

So many gamers are playing what they've got access to - and that isn't always good. And when they sell, maybe the industry is picking up the wrong message...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
Your correct on the gamers growing up point to some extent. I am 43, played pong, Atari etc. I love FPS games, would rather be castrated then play a WoW type game, do not own a console, a hand held, and do not play games on my phone.

The splinters you mention are not so much age specific as they are tech age specific.

I agree with making games more story driven, in a down-loadable format, and just more fun, the problem is that the market is becoming LESS intelligent rather then smarter, and the industry goes where the market is. TV and movies are doing the same thing.

You could have shortened this entire "letter" to 4 simple words:

"Do what Valve Does".
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Old 06-20-2009, 03:35 AM   #4
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The 60 million dollar figure, and 24+ month development cycle is probably bogus. Costs jumped so high for everyone this time around because no one had to deal with multiple cores before. When the next round of consoles launch the developers will have a better idea of how to tackle the expected increase of cores/threads and things should even out at a more reasonable price point. I wouldn't be shocked to see the occasional 70-100 million dollar game next time out but that probably would be the exception. Also, check this out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...deo_games#Xbox It even contains some of Nintendo's better stuff and they regularly hit 1 million in sales as far back as the original NES. With Xbox live and the PS network adding tons of DLC, no one is going to have a problem with sales except those devs who deliberately shun the online community. One last thing; I don't understand the {I don't have 40hrs to devote, give me something small I can do in quick bursts} argument. Especially since you show a Castle Crashers pic. Microsoft introduced XNA dev tools a while back specifically to allow smaller, faster games a chance to flourish in the same market as the AAA tiles. They take less time to create and hit a specific audience, namely the people who regardless of age, don't have 40hrs to devote in one sitting. They ARE expanding to accommodate more kinds of games for more kinds of gamers. So I don't think you need to be so bitter. Going forward from here, there's going to be a greater wealth of content to fill every kind of niche imaginable.
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Old 06-20-2009, 01:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
You could have shortened this entire "letter" to 4 simple words:

"Do what Valve Does".
God I hope not. This touches on the exact point I was going to make here... Valve's development times have grown increasingly longer for their games, and if you average out Half Life they've only done an okay job of handling Episodic content. Here's why:

Half Life: November 1998

Half Life 2: November 2004

HL2 Episode One: May 2006

HL2 Episode Two: October 2007

It took six years from the original Half Life hit to develop HL2. Case in point, look at HL2 and then Episode One. Valve spent a year and a half just to release a 4 hour long game segment. Then Valve did seem to recover and in a slightly shorter period of time they were able to release Episode Two which was thankfully longer than six hours of gameplay.

However, it won't be long before it's been two years since the last HL2 episode... the original premise of Episodic content was regular, frequent releases of content yet now we seem to be getting short, small games in the span of the time it would take to develop a full game. Granted Episode Two was sold as part of the Orange Box that included Portal and TF2, but I enjoyed Portal by far the most and hardly remember Episode Two because the other two games completely overshadowed it.

I'm not sure about anyone else but one thing that made Half Life stand out in a big way for me was that player could spend hours immersed within the game and not get the feeling they were about to finish it. It made putting down the game and waiting till the next day to play a few more hours all the more fun because it was just as engrossing as it was the first moments I started playing, and the entire experience lasted across days. That game was not short and couldn't be played in a single setting. Because the game was about the story, about the problem solving, with a little FPS thrown in it just made the experience perfect.

About the only game that really came close to this again was Crysis, except that one was definitely more focused on the shooting and less on the story. Still the general sandbox mode and extremely wide variety of ways to go about achieving objectives made it pretty good as well.

Anyway, I do disagree a bit about the casual games. If I want a casual game I grab a multiplayer game like TF2, L4D, BattleForge, Company of Heroes, Supreme Commander, etc and play some against an AI in skirmish mode, or preferably play multiplayer since they're the ultimate AI. It's short, simple, and quick casual fun for an hour or two.

Otherwise, in a single player video game I'm looking for the immersive experience, the challenge or problem solving (actual problems, not FPS "challenges" like time demos, how many kills I can get, or anything else that really is just superficial), and the story to wrap it all up in. Halo came about because of Half Life, and just like it it created a good story around one character and that carried the game long into it's sequels.

All of that said I do agree with your main points. I haven't stepped into a game store in years, either I buy it electronically or I buy a physical copy at a good discount online. If I'm considering a game I'll first look it up on Steam and see if Valve's Steam is offering it. There's no real point in physical games anymore, most game devs can't even write a game manual worth reading.
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Last edited by Kougar; 06-20-2009 at 01:32 PM.
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Old 06-20-2009, 02:28 PM   #6
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and i wanted to go in the gaming industry.hehee!..become a Dev. ah well, i'll dream bout it at nights!
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Old 06-21-2009, 02:32 PM   #7
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Default Gaming is too complex

Society *is* getting dumber, and gaming is getting too complex. This makes for less sales.
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Old 06-21-2009, 03:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered
"Do what Valve Does".
Valve is doing a lot of great things, but I'm not entirely sold on the idea that I want Steam to become the standard (even though it pretty much is). Services like Direct 2 Drive are actually pretty good. You can download the game, then burn it to a disc if you wish... you don't have to go through the hassle of using some third-party service every time you want to play it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett Thomas
So to say that this market is dumbing, is kind of insulting you and I!
I assume he or she is talking about the new generation, and in some regards, I'd have to agree. It's not just with video games though, but movies, music, et cetera. When I hear a #1 song with the lyrics, "Let's have some fun, this beat is sick... I wanna take a ride on your disco stick", it makes you wonder. Older gamers haven't moved, but gaming doesn't just affect us, but everyone. The Wii would have been a flop if it weren't for younger gamers. I can't see it, anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered
Microsoft introduced XNA dev tools a while back specifically to allow smaller, faster games a chance to flourish in the same market as the AAA tiles.
Yes, you make some great points. I think for the most part, Brett is talking about the largest developers who seem to be ignoring this incredibly robust market, and aside from that, we need a LOT more "blockbuster" simple games. I loved games like Gumboy and Within a Deep Forest... we need more classic games like that. The challenge is getting those titles out to a wider audience. It seems like only top-rate developers who can afford the fanciest graphics, audio and game depth are able to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, or more.

I look to games like Minecraft, which I posted about the other day. In all regards, it's incredibly simple, both from a graphics and gameplay standpoint. But in the few hours I spent in the game, I had an absolute blast. It's strange, because even though I have copies of pretty much every hit PC game here, I've never felt inclined to actually load one up, unless I need it for benchmarking. The last PC game I actually beat was HL2 Episode Two, and that was when it first came out. Sad, I know.

I do admit I'm likely in the minority where that's concerned though. I have no issue devoting some time to games (I do subscribe to two MMORPG's), but no game has really captured my imagination enough to actually force me to sit down and play. It could be that I'm not a "real" gamer anymore... I wouldn't rule that out.

Kougar: I agree on the Valve thing... the release dates for the Half-Life 2 episodes are brutal. I felt like we were suckered with the first one, because everyone expected the second part to be released eight months later... but it became 16 or so. It's even worse with the third instalment now... it's becoming increasingly difficult to retain serious interest in that title. They're just taking way, way too long, especially for what is essentially a title that can be completed in a single evening.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keatah
Society *is* getting dumber, and gaming is getting too complex. This makes for less sales.
Well, we've seen how well certain casual games have sold (like Castle Crashers and Wii titles), so it's apparent that people don't only enjoy games with mind-blowing graphics and depth. They like games that are fun, and that's the most important thing to take away. It's been proven far too many times that graphics aren't everything (they DO help, though), and for all intents and purposes, I don't think there exists a single "casual" game that's even very 3D. People seem to be enjoying simple gameplay a lot more lately, so I'd expect we'd see a very different market in a few years.

Regarding Brett's desire to see cross-platform games, it'd be great to see, but we'd need some solid standards. I certainly wouldn't want to see all games Flash-based, for example... that'd harm gaming more than help it. I really have a hard time constructing a really valuable comment here. I've been thinking about the state of gaming for a while, but I think the change (for me) is stark, not simple. I don't consider myself to be anything resembling an active gamer lately (aside from MMO), so my opinions are going to differ from most.
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Old 06-23-2009, 11:56 PM   #9
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http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=282

I'm just gonna leave this here.
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Old 06-24-2009, 03:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by madstork91 View Post
http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=282

I'm just gonna leave this here.
Nice one.
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Old 07-10-2009, 07:56 AM   #11
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Well placed comic indeed - aside from Rockband and GH, I've been waiting for a good console game for a while. I don't like FPSes on PS3 or Wi, I like to run them on my PC, cheat a bit, have better WASD controls, etc.

I have recently bought Prototype and Red Faction, and am very pleased with both games. Missions if I want them, Grand Theft Auto style carnage if I do not. I had bought the new Killzone, Farcry and another one for PS3, and Farcry was teeming with nothingness, you can't call it exploring if you're just wandering through rendered gobbledgook!

I think I'll laugh about that comic for a while.
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