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Tuesday, March 14, 2006



"That is changing....We're going to have the best games and release them when they are ready."

If the technology is in place and your process is tried and tested, is two years not enough to develop a software product?

What about the market realisation of taking longer than two years to develop a videogame? This sounds like a badly positioned sweeping statement.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Maybe it's the Zen getting to me, but I'm tuning out of the capital accumulation argument. In all this talk of design and competition, I can't help thinking this fevered activity is an American thing, and I'm not American. Yes, the examples Scott cites as being potential IP winners and losers are pretty obvious, but that's not how my mind is framed, so I'll tilt in the opposite direction and suggest it's another variant of unimaginative going with the flow. Scott's a very focused and practical man, and that's helped him cut through some nonsense and achieve some notable results. On the other hand, taking a step back and allowing yourself to see the bigger picture has its advantages. In this is the consideration that the balance of judgement is the important factor.


First EA drops the price of some of its games, then they increase the number of original games they create? It's like they read my blog and realised "You know, that guy's right" :P

Kidding aside, this is a great move that will increase the cultural impact of games, broaden the market and bring EA a bunch of very profitable IP. Hopefully it will get other publishers moving in the same direction. I'm glad to see them react to the recent drop in the market rather than rest on their laurels and assume everything would get back to normal.

(Thanks Scott for the great link, I blogged it: http://sacredcows.pagtech.com/)

Charles E. Hardwidge

Looking at the bigger picture, I noted Scott's earlier frustration with poor games development, as well as his claims in this topic, and would make the suggest that personal and systemic change has a life of its own. Change comes when change is due. To some degree, that's what I've been banging on about. It's a strange day when mutual opponents can claim equal victory.

Looking further ahead, I'm not persuaded Scott's claim about poor IP and investment opportunities is correct, and better design and business relationships will show this to be true in the future, but that requires current improvements to take root first. On another front, I see some opportunity for increasing quality and context in the recent initiative by Bill Clinton and Joseph Lieberman.

I remain convinced that games development and the market remain issues, primarily, of character. What we do and how we relate to other people is key to success, and improving quality and relationships between developers, publishers, and gamers is key to continued success and, more importantly, the quality of that success. Practicality and spirtuality are not mutually exclusive.

Joe M

>If the technology is in place and your process is tried and >tested, is two years not enough to develop a software product?
What KIND of software product do you mean? A run-of-the-mill licensed game that can score no more than 8/10? Sure, two years is plenty, as EA has proven time and time again. Hell they mostly do it in one if it's a sequeled game.

A triple-A 9/10 original IP game? Not a chance. You look at EVERY company that produces them reliably (Valve, Bioware, Nintendo, 3DRealms, Blizzard). Without exception they embrace the "it's done when it's done" philosophy.

I mean it's not like this is rocket science. How do you release great smash-hits games every single time at bat? Nothing could be simpler: choose not to release sub-par games.


Charles - I'm still trying to get used to your style. When I read you, it translates as noise. I'm humble, so for now I will assume some of the responsibility for the lack of clarity; if its noise to me then maybe I can't see the point you are trying to make, why? I don't know. I'm sure there is good content in there but making it more visible might help.

JoeM - I've worked on my fair share of triple A titles ... from crisis managing a few to heading up a couple, and the only fact that resulted in over development (its ready when its ready mentality) was because of bad management and a lack of design direction, usually the result of poor decision making and/or inexperienced designers.

My question was set against the premise that the technology, tools and the production process for the proposed product was in place, leaving only the design, implementation and tech refinement to develop. Against this, two years is more than enough if you consider outsourcing multi-platform development and if the game is not one of those crazy projects like MMO's. Basically, there are plenty of game that can be developed in two years, from racing through action adventure.

The fact is, these sequels and non-original IP are the bread an butter of our industry. As for releasing smash hit games every time ... the market will be the judge of that.
Consider western developers who do their best to create original IP, that by industry standards is great, but the market fails to respond. Examples can be dissected if we look at Beyond Good and Evil by Ubisoft, the designer of which developed Rayman and who's recent release is King Kong. See what's happening? I have my own theories on this but I'm intrigued as to why you think making profitable games is so easy and why you are so swift to damn those that can turn a product around to a high standard within a reduced time frame. This is not just about EA. There are plenty of developers creating games that are sequels or licensed.

Regarding the companies you reference, only Nintendo stands up and even then you have to fight for the argument because the original games are from Japan and the Japanese development environment is very different to those in the west. You also have to take into account where the IP's are coming from, those which are synonymous with the Nintendo name ... Miyamoto. He is an exception to the rule for obvious reasons.
Valve, 3D Realms, Blizzard and Bioware iterate upon their core IP. They demonstrate limited originality. When they attempt to broaden their IP set consider what happens. Bioware and Jade Empire ... not a bad IP, not exactly unique, but did it dent the market, no. Look at Starcraft Ghost; Blizzard are struggling with this new IP if you read between the lines of why its delayed; Blizzard clearly understand that creating a new IP is tough and without the cash cow that is WOW, they would have cancelled the project a long time ago.

Scott - Maybe this is a little direct, but you reference that original IP opens market opportunity in various guises, which I agree with you on; but admit it, its tougher to tap into those markets. Reviewing the original IP 3D realms has been successful with - Max Payne and Duke Nuke Em – they are not that original if you look to expose them in TV, Film or Fiction. In fact, they are quite poor in comparison. I propose the that what we as an industry tend to develop original IP, which is more often than not, far too derivative to succeed in more mature markets. This alone should not stop us, but we must mature and we need to gain the respect of the other industries, something Charles hints at.

Charles E. Hardwidge

I can see where you're coming from.

Modern marketing is about looking authoritative and accumulating attention. It's about convincing people you've got the answer, and sucking as many people into the fold as possible. Maximising investment return is the priority. Better games are merely secondary. Marketing, games design, and games developers can be led astray by focusing too much on winning, as opposed to better. Consider the politican who chases votes. Their vision, implementation, and personal character may be corrupted by fear of losing. Think of all the over-hyped, bug ridden games you've seen pushed out by strutting egos that have lost the plot, and you'll have a clear picture what I'm getting at. The overall tone, or tilt, of the industry is too razzed up and finger pointing at every level.

Look at Scotts topic. Putting aside what EA are doing, he's trumpeting the triumph of his own design philosophy, making himself look like an authority, and attracting attention. Where's the room for other views or encouraging others in this? To be fair, it's something we all do to some degree, but it has its problems. Like corporations, authority and attention can be a little unreal and selfish. I don't disagree with Scotts methods or many of his comments. What I disagree with is his perspective on design and marketing, and how he appears to be putting financial gain ahead of creative and social gain, for the developer, industry, and society. I see this reflected in his companies games, which have a focus on a lone individual, a hero, that waves a gun and ego in front of the crowd.

It may just be a question of personality, the fact that I come from another country, or have different aspirations. I don't know. Probably, it's a combination of all of the above. For me, the current focus of design is far too immediate. It's all guns, tits, and gloss. More game developers, like film producers and mainstream media, need to take a step back and produce something more calm, measured, and rounded. The over-simplified and sales orientated American style of thinking might make things accessible, but it takes out more subtle content that operates on a broader level. Generally speaking, the best Hollywood films were produced by complex people, European games tend to be more creative, and Asian games have a higher relationship factor.

Simply, focus, context, and discipline are key to maturity.

Scott Miller

Charles wrote: "I see this reflected in his companies games, which have a focus on a lone individual, a hero, that waves a gun and ego in front of the crowd."

Charles, completely agree that we have a limited range, but that's a survival choice. We know our limits, and in order to stay successful we're going to stay within them. Likewise, it would be silly for Pixar to venture into live action movies, or for Microsoft to venture into consoles. ...Oh wait!

We will leave revolutionary creativity to other studios, and mostly likely younger studios with less to lose will place the big bets on revolutionary ideas. We just stick with evolutionary ideas, like talking FPS heroes, bullet-time, gravity flipping, portals, etc.

But at least we're still inventing new IP. If Prey becomes a success, it'll be hard to find more than a handful of other independent studios that have played a key role in four successful major IP launches (Wolfenstein 3-D, Duke, Max & Prey). Yes, they're all shooters, but that's what we do. We were there for the creation of the genre, and we'll be there for its eventual demise...hopefully many, many years from now!

Scrathinghead wrote: "Reviewing the original IP 3D realms has been successful with - Max Payne and Duke Nuke Em – they are not that original if you look to expose them in TV, Film or Fiction."

Again, fully agree. What we've done is take elements from movies and been among the first to bring them to the genre of shooters (Duke Nukem is a blend of Dirty Harry, John Wayne's many characters, and The Arnold, while Max Payne used action & slow motion elements from John Woo movies and The Matrix). We're hoping Prey is more unique on that front, and a better candidate for a successful leap to movie screens. (BTW, a Max Payne movie is in the works, as has been report in Hollywood trades.)

John Byrd

> EA is adopting something of a When It's Done attitude

No surprise there, especially if you've done time (as I have) inside the belly of the bEAst. When It's Done has been the EA Way for some time now for most EA products, save sports and movie licenses.

Harry Kalogirou

The "when-its-done" is (c) Id Software. And they really showed the way to make it practice with DOOM 3!! Never forget the copyrights, if you don't want to get into trouble! :)


So, there we were, having a mild discussion about IP originality and its benefits and what do we wake up to ... http://www.vivapinata.com/vivapinatacom/announce/

Looks to be an original IP that ticks all the boxes.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Well, Scott. It just looks like we're opposites of the same coin. I think, you can brand stretch, be revolutionary, and gain by putting more value on getting along than getting ahead, versus your focus, evolutionary approach, and emphasis on capital growth. As you've got your successes and EA has come around to your way of thinking, I've got my own. I wrote my first 3D wireframe portal shooter in the decade before Doom, and have campaigned for and seen key strategies make their mark on public policy formation.

After landing on your face with the Nintendo topic, you've wobbled, and finally picked up on something where Scott Miller can land on his feet again. That's fair enough. I handled the last duck-and-run idiot with a warm embrace, and they haven't been back. Again, I think, we're as bad as each other but in opposite ways. At the root of branding, marketing, and leadership is strategy. Both psychology, behavorial economics and, lately, physics dance around this, though none fully get to the point.

Some of the smartest marketing around, the latest research into swarming, and United Kingdom government policy formation and execution have one thing in common. They don't play poker, as Americans do, or chess, as the Europeans and Arabs do, they play Go, like the Chinese and Japanese. Indeed, the Samurai, who were experts in personal development via ways of strategy, thought Go was an essential art to regularly practice. The point, here, is for developers, gamers, and media, Go is both fun and instructive.

Design, marketing, and leadership are all the same thing. Less talk, more Go, eh?

Jan Modrak

Hi Scott. That price for Max Payne IP seems little bit high for me as it was reported that Activision offered $90 million for Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein properties. These are stronger IPs in my opinion...

Source: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/news.php?aid=11868

Scott Miller

Jan, Id turned that price down because Activision clearly offered too little. Also, keep in mind that the first Max Payne game sold 4 million copies, and I do not think any single Id game has ever sold that high. Max Payne, for its time, was a stellar hit.

The Doom and Quake IPs, IMO, have fallen in value in the last many years, and especially after thei more recent games (Doom 3 and Quake 4). Most likely, Id could not get more than $50 million for either of those IP separately at this point, while in the past each of those IP would have been worth double their current value. The Wolf IP might just be the most valuable in the log run, as it actually has a character worth caring about, and a more compelling story.

Had Activision offered $140m, then I think the price would have been fair.

Software Guy

Scott, you are the Joel On Software and Eric Sink of Game Development. I hear both of them are doing OK and are even being referenced in many places as THE place to go for advice on running a successful software business.
Perhaps your blog has had the same effect on some EA bigwigs?
Or is it just that great minds think alike?

Charlie Cleveland

Great article, as usual. While I'm glad for EA that they have FINALLY figured this out, the thought of an EA that's well-equipped for future market domination is very scary as well. My hope though is that they lead by example and help transform the rest of the industry into this "new" direction.


Hello. I'm wanting to go into game art design soon. My art site is http://Whitneysdrawings.blogspot.com I kind of feel odd about it though because I thought game design and art is mostly a guys business. Maybe I'm wrong.
I've been drawing my whole life (I have new better sketches that are not on my site.) I heard game design is one of the fastest growing jobs out there...maybe thats why there is a new game programming class at my community college. LOL I also used to play nintedno 64 all day with games like Turok,mario64, 007,and banjo-kazooie. I know that the game industry likes its workers to be familier with the newest games and consoles but what if somebody can't afford the newest console or games are they less likely to be hired? (LOL that's probably not the most important question ha ha) you can answer my question by going to my link and saying anything by clicking on comments. :-)


Charles E. Hardwidge

In a change of tack, is there any chance you'll produce a port of any of your games for the Haiku platform? What's that and why, you ask. It's an open source clone of BeOS, and I'm seriously considering switching to it when it hits R1, if it can deliver browsing, email, and wordprocessing for personal use. Maybe your Duke Nukem 3D open source community might like to consider doing a native Haiku port sometime. That would be cool.


I'm late to this party, but I just had to point out that Munich would actually make a great game. In fact, it seemed to me to be pretty much inspired by Hitman in the first place - right down to the Jesper Kyd-esque score during the hits.

Charles E. Hardwidge

I've just read in The Escapist how the ludology versus narratology crowd have put their differences to rest and admitted the whole thing was a wheeze. It's interesting to see further comments on gameplay and story, and the conclusion that they're one and the same. I guess, this is a "told you so" moment for me. My theory of strategy led game development resolves gameplay, graphics and audio, and gameplay into a unified whole, in the same way Scott resolves design and marketing. Myself, I think, it's all the same thing. Each element, in its own way, is the heroes journey, as is the struggle for maturity in the game industry.

I think, this has been a good week for everyone. Thank's Scott!

Scott Miller

Charles, in my post last year, I believe, "The Story with Ludology," I also said that it was a meaningless battle, and gave a few reasons why. People love to argue...and that's really all there was to it.

Charles E. Hardwidge

That topic was a good progression from the points I raised in 'The Game Designers Journey'. Likewise, 'Learning To Be Fun', and your design and marketing centred topics touch on the same ground. I think, we're all reading from the same page. What we do with it is another thing. It's in this difference, I believe, that bad design and behaviour comes from. This thinking isn't new. Heck, Jet Li has essays on his web site that reflect this and they're nothing new. People will still be learning and fighting after we're dead.


"The fact is, these sequels and non-original IP are the bread an butter of our industry."

I don't understand why people insist on grouping sequels and licensed IP together. They are mutually exclusive of each other and have no relation whatsoever.

"Look at Starcraft Ghost; Blizzard are struggling with this new IP...."

Umm, that's not a new IP, it's an old (Starcraft) IP. This mention kind of works against your point, although I don't believe citing specific game successes/ failures means much in a discussion like this anyway.

Scott Miller

-- "I don't understand why people insist on grouping sequels and licensed IP together. They are mutually exclusive of each other and have no relation whatsoever."

Totally agree. I've said numerous times that sequels are not a bad thing, and if done well they should be thought of as "episodes," just like new episodes of a TV series. (Although, this analogy doesn't work for yearly sports titles, and remakes, like a Doom 3 -- but these are still okay, in my book.) I'm all for sequels, as long as they're good. The Tomb Raider series is an example of sequels gone bad. And then we have the Elder Scrolls series...any complaints here? Didn't think so.

Charles E. Hardwidge

One thing I've learned from films and television series is that something bad can be pretty valuable. It becomes easy to take good stuff for granted, and it's nice to be reminded of the bad. It can teach you more about how to do things well, and help you better appreciate the good stuff.

I know you keep pimping DNF and Max Payne when you can, but Duke Nukem: Manhatten Project was so-so and Devastation was a howler. They're bum notes and a bit embarassing, judged by sales and critical acclaim, but valuable in their own way. A respectable discussion should take a rounded view.

Games development, politics, and the world in general, has become risk averse. A little bit of dirt helps build a stronger immune system. Perhaps, a better appreciation of new and better, and old and worse, might help tilt the overall discussion and development strategy towards something more sane?

Scott Miller

Charles, Devastation was not our game--not sure who made it, never played it. Manhattan Project was original created solely as an online-only downloadable valueware game, so it was never intended to be a major release. It was only in the last two months of development that the publisher and primary developer asked us if they could change strategy and take it to retail, and we agreed. However, that game still had a unique twist to it, as a 3D platformer. It also captured the Duke persona better than any game since Duke Nukem 3D. I personally was very happy with that happy...it was very well made for a budget title and a ton of fun. It just didn't sell well because platformers as a genre are so early-90's, so this game was released about 8-10 years past it's window.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Arush Entertainment did Devastation. I think, it had a spot on your company forum for a while? The talk just caught me eye once, and I figured that if it was being promoted on there is was another collaboration or publishing effort, like Max Payne and Prey. I thought it had dropped out of sight a bit swiftly and firmly. My mistake. That explains it.

In spite of the sales and critical response, funnily enough, DN:MP struck a cord with me as something vaguely like that was floating through my mind at the time. Between budget and timing issues, I agree, it's fair to be happy with the result. Taking a harder look, I'd call it a prototype. There's something in there worth looking at again sometime.

It's probably obvious why I lurched down this line of argument. I find the corporate and public response a bit sterile and frantic, depending on what's being discussed. I think, a bit more corporate openness and customer restraint, isn't a bad thing to encourage if it can stick. It's a bit more real than the historical pattern, and might encourage better games.


Pff, just laughable. EA is the chinese cloth manufacturer under the game delevopers. Max development time for EA? 4 Month. 200 slaves working on one game. EA will "seize the IP". HAHAHAHAHA.....


> (...)younger studios with less to lose will place the big bets on >revolutionary ideas.

As, I hope, a future company starter myself, I find the above statement to be very sad. If I create my young studio, it will be with my life savings, and then I'll have EVERYTHING to lose compared to any money-making company. Scott, the richer studios, like yours, should take the risks of revolutionnary ideas.

A lot of gameplay revolutions and new genres came from the same company => Nintendo. If they didn't have the money to back their new ideas and market them accordingly , this industry would still be stuck in the stone age on many levels.

I am not saying 3D Realms should try revolutionnary stuff, if you feel confortable doind what you do then all is well. But in my opinion it's clearly not the sole role of younger studios to take the risks of revolution and ground-breaking ideas, and it shouldn't be.


Charles E. Hardwidge

Human nature is a funny thing. People tend to freeze because of what they'll lose, not the uncertainty of what they'll gain. It's a character issue. My take on it as an industry issue is the same as with anything else. Do your best, know your limits, and be persistent. I think, we can all agree on that.

The invention and ossification of the establishment is a mixture of good and bad, opportunity and disaster, for everyone. What matters, what really matters, isn't how the world is, it's how you deal with it. Many things bug me, but you've got to learn to let them go, and focus on how you deal with life now, because that's what makes the future.


Hello, I love Rockman. This powerful game. Do anyone play this game.

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