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Tuesday, April 25, 2006



Good read. Of course, it's not as motivating for beginning developers to start small, either. Big ambitions often spur the smallest studio's. Having to start doing, from their ambitious point of view, inconsequential outsourcing work or licence titles, may also burn them out before they get to the point of having enough to find their own game. Worse yet, more likely they get almost no royalties and have to beg a publisher for a new gig to stay in business right after.

So even though they could decide to go slow, that is difficult and demotivating as it is, it seems to me.


A very interesting presentation.

I wonder, however, if long established independant developers don't have the same limitation as publishers when it comes to creating new IP. Typically in art and entertainment, it's the newcomers who bring the ground-breaking creativity (not to bash on experienced creators who's work is often of superior quality). Look at the studios mentionned in this article: Edge of Reality, id, 3D Realms, Ritual and Gearbox, few of them have created original titles in the last few years.

This industry really needs a way to fund riskier but lower-budget project.

P.S. I've mentionned this post on my blog (http://sacredcows.pagtech.com>http://sacredcows.pagtech.com/)


Allow me to dissent,

Independents, in their current form, are relics. They're the last remnants of a dead generation, holding on through the years, slowly getting edged out one by one through buyout or eventual collapse largely because the products that they make cost too much and are of only limited appeal because they are run - for the most part - by the same guys who were running them 15 years ago. They're just going to seed, and although they have their hardcore fanbase and general industry 'pull', their current output is becoming about as relevant to modern, interesting design, as the latest album from the Rolling Stones, David Bowie or Michael Jackson.

Independents are deadweights, and their continued presence creates a creative stall in the industry's mindspace because people are still looking to the likes of Peter Molyneux and a whole generation of hasbeens for creative vision. Their only importance is self-importance, and frankly they've grown too old for this shit.

'Indies', on the other hand, meaning those tiny Introversions and IGF type developers, are what is interesting, and will be the fountain of creativity in the coming years. They have more energy, less cynicism, better constraints through a lack of reputation, and they're starting to gain some exposure. Indies don't seriously think in terms of IP, franchise rights and so on. They think in terms of their next game, their tiny office rent, and their next game after that. As it should be.

Get out of the way old guys.



As defined this way, an independent studio:

a. Today gets a reasonable royalty because it has the financial resources to at least partially pay its own development funding (despite the current high costs of development for the conventional channel);

b. And therefore must have been in existence for many years and had some reasonable hits back in an era when development costs were lower and it was actually possible to make money on the kinds of contracts offered to newbie studios.

In other words, the stock of "independent studios" can never be replenished, because those conditions aren't coming around ever again--and the those that remain will inevitably be depleted over time (can you say 'Lionhead'?).

This is a positive vision?

We need to break free of this business model and find a new one.

But then, you knew I'd say that, I'm sure.


Or sort of what Bryce said, without the ageism. Old farts have something to teach young turks.


Well I'm old (36) an Indie (Positech Games) AND I'm ex-Lionhead. I must win a prize or something surely?
It always makes me chuckle to hear about firms the size of Lionhead described as 'indie'. they had around 150 staff and did deals with motorola and chrysler. They published through EA and Activision. A studio that size is as much part of the big industry mindset as an in-house EA studio.

Charles E. Hardwidge

This is a fair view but only one perspective.

Since seeing my IP commerically realised back in the 80's, and a lot of the tech and content ideas I've been designing and prototyping emerge into the mainstream, I think, the core issue is a matter of capacity and determination. There is much to learn from old ways and new ways. Ultimately, you have to decide where to lead and follow. This is a delicate thing.

I will succeed, but on my terms.


"Or sort of what Bryce said, without the ageism."

I was being dramatic.

I'm talking more about the company-level psychology. Someone like Cliff shows that it's perfectly possible to get out there and do something at any age (as are many prize-winning novelists). It's the companies, the ingrained cynicism that has come with them, and the serious lack of worthwhile ideas coming out of them.

Think about it. When was the last really exciting idea to come out of an independent developer that wasn't just a sequel of their previous work? I think five years at the very least. These companies have gotten into trying to own their niche's and produce little product lines and all that sort of stuff, which is fine, and then whoring up all the press by talking up these tired concepts as innovative etc (especially Molyneux).

I say they've lost the energy that they used to have in the process of becoming businesses. I was watching that Metallica documentary (some kind of Monster) where you realise that these guys with their families and their issues and stuff are now middle aged men, and they worry far more about how they will be perceived than they ever would have done 20 years previously. But, yaknow, the Metallica franchise has to keep rolling on etc... And that's what long-in-the-tooth independent development has become. The Texas scene especially, but actually game development in US/CA and UK in general, has grown too old and stuck in its ways, and has seriously gone to seed as a result. That environment produces nothing worthwhile any more.

So it's time to eject that nonsense and get back to what matters, which is making games any way you can. Whatever Cliff etc are doing is automatically far more interesting than whatever Valve or 3D Realms have to offer at this stage because it's going to be fresh at the very least.

Tom Schaffer

Interesting read. I'm always very interested in reading such things, since I'm working for a small indie team in Austria (Bongfish).

I think one big question is: who are the allies of !small! indie teams? For example I don't think it's too hard for studios like Lionhead or 3D Realms to get the big coverage on their next game, but it's a lot more difficult for small team to get any coverage at all. Sometimes when I talked to journalists I got the feeling that I'm a beggar on my knees, while I certainly knew that neither our game nor ourself did deserve to be treated in such a manner.

Kieron Gillen once demanded, that developers should behave more like rockstars. OK! here we are, willing to tell something interesting.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Leadership has to come from within. You have to take a calm, measured, warm, and friendly approach to the things you do and the people you meet. From this, all success will be built. Some will try and run you down, others will try and make you feel important. None of this matters. Like a good game design, all that matters is you flow. Your best friend and worst enemy is yourself. Results follow action, follow thought. Attend to this and you will succeed.

For instance, I listen to and acknowledge the achievements of Carmack, Spector, Miller et al, but I don’t hold them up as being unquestionable gods. There is good and bad in everyone and everything, and I never give up the right to make my own judgement, am prepared to be wrong, and where I make mistakes will try to learn from them. I have my own share of achievement, which is considerable in its own right, but mustn’t get too carried away with myself.

As an example, in the United Kingdom the big guns of politics have run into a reality wall with the public. The strategic parallel between politics and the game industry is in the similarity between the big interests, such as the publishing, media, and development establishment, and the smaller end of the spectrum, such as small publishers, blogs, and independent studios. By setting a new agenda and communicating that with others, so the look and feel of the system changes.

At least, that’s how I see it.


That's how you see what?

Charles E. Hardwidge

That's how you see what?

Everything. :)

Scott Miller

-- "I listen to and acknowledge the achievements of Carmack, Spector, Miller et al, but I don’t hold them up as being unquestionable gods."

I don't hold anyone to such a high standard either, and would recommend no one should. When it all comes down to it, we're all just developers trying to achieve success. There are many roads, and I was one who started right at the bottom. I still work extreme hours (up until 3am last night working on Prey) to ensure our games are as good and as innovative as possible.

As I said before, while we remain within a single genre, we still strive for innovation. Duke 3D had a long list of innovations. Max Payne had several key innovations. Prey has several compelling innovations. I feel good about what we're doing here, versus many of our competitors who seem to be in an innovation rut, or only innovate in terms of graphics technology.


"Duke 3D had a long list of innovations. Max Payne had several key innovations. Prey has several compelling innovations"

You still make it sound like the scope of innovation in your games is decreasing with each product. Must... not... write... while sleep-deprived. ;-)


The main problem with software development (game development, business development,etc) is *unrealistic schedules*. Everyone wants everything for nothing. SO many problems would be relieved if this was removed. If you're careful about hiring, you'll find that the people you get mostly want to do well. They are looking for ways to make something awesome. However, the mindset is completely different when someone is standing over you with a whip putting extreme pressure on you to do the impossible. Yes, sometimes people need to be urged to do the right thing instead of the fun thing, but there's a low limit for this.

Would Scott Miller be Scott Miller if he had a slave driving manager beating him on his back with an impossible schedule?

Until we can get the people who hold the money to come to terms and be honest with this aspect, then nothing will change.

I'm not a game developer, but I'm a big gamer and enjoy your posts. This one really resonated.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Reading through the topic, again, and looking at the various comments, I just can’t get over how what we’re dealing with is a people thing. As Scott said months ago, perception dictates reality. Then there’s my position, that perception is an illusion. Bottom line, I guess, it’s all a matter of choice.

I’ve learned things the hard way, and through a path I’m not sure anyone commenting in here would chose to take. Whether you’ve got it all laid on or you’re being squeezed, there’s no one single way to succeed or fail. We can do either in spite of the circumstances. Who we are matters.

I look at Scott’s deliberate circumscribing of the game types he produces and my own hesitation to press on, and could argue that both of us are trapped by equal and opposite dreams and nightmares. By letting go of these blocks, perhaps, new doors to success might be opened.

I think, there’s a lot of truth in life being what you make of it.

Binu Philip

I’m glad to read the responses so far! It’s certainly food for thought. Here are a few further comments:

Mirik: Growing slowly towards independence is a hard road to take. Fortunately, as an independent studios are not tied to one publisher. You have the option to talk to as many publishers as you like for potential projects. If you’re a good developer, you should be in demand. How much you're in demand will mostly dictate what your royalty rate and the deductions allowed in calculating your royalty. It's not impossible to thrive as an independent studio.

Pag: Actually, Gearbox put out Brothers in Arms, 3DR helped put out Prey, Ritual is doing SiN Episodes, and we’re working on an unannounced property. There is a lot of new stuff going on.

Bryce: I appreciate the respectful comment, and I hear what you’re saying. I like what the IGF people are up to, and I’m hopeful that they will create mass market appeal. However, I don’t agree that independent studios are relics. At the end of the day, in a free market economy, it is the consumer who decides how well an independent studio does. If we don’t perform, we go out of business, period. It’s not about self importance, it is survival of the fittest.

Greg: Personally, I agree that a future with 20-30mm development costs on a AAA title seems really bleek. We believe we can make a AAA game for far less than that. Our development efficiency comes from our tools, which we’ve spent the last two years working on. There should be a future article on how our tools work, it will explain further. Another source of efficiency for next gen development is being able to outsource to high quality low cost art houses, primarily overseas.

Cliff: Lionhead were large, but I still considered them independent b/c they were not owned by a publisher with deep pockets. Their destiny was largely in their hands.

Bryce: We have a lot of respect for Epic, 3DR, and Valve. Despite the fact that they are smaller and independent, they are also more likely to come up with something fresh and innovative that will appeal to the masses than most internal studio teams. They have no one to answer to but themselves, and to consumers.

Tom Schaffer: If you’re asking who are the press allies for independent studios, I would say that many people in the press are rooting for independence. They are tired of sequelitis. They want something new and independent studios give them a chance for something new. If you’re looking for press, they will be drawn to cool new games. A good PR agency is also a big help. We just hired our first one last week.


I'm glad to say I've helped a few small and upstarting independant projects get into the spotlight in my days. *proud* :)

Not much came from it so far, but who knows...


Binu: "At the end of the day, in a free market economy, it is the consumer who decides how well an independent studio does. If we don’t perform, we go out of business, period. It’s not about self importance, it is survival of the fittest."

The essential thrust of your original piece is that the reason that independents are important in the games ecosystem because they represent the most important font of imagination.

I say that's not true any more, that while it may have been ten years ago, most of the independent companies have either sold up or entrenched, and they rely heavily now on their brand and their franchise logic to justify their own existence.

This is because they have nothing new to offer, and they haven't had for quite a long time. They've grown older, and as a result much more afraid of the future, and therefore of taking a risk. When your independent sector is at the point that it speaks exactly the same sort of business babble all the time as a big corp, it's a real sign that they have matured past the point of actually producing good work. So they may survive, they may even prosper, but they are not important or relevant.

Survival fears are what's holding them back an slowing the rest of us down, because the gaming media still think that these companies are it vs the big bad publishers. They're just not, they're every bit as conservative as the publishers that they claim to define themselves against, and their output is now creatively just as neutered.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Just caught your comments, Bryce, as I was previewing my own post. Interesting parallel.

For every point Binu makes, I can find an equal and opposite example. Pragmatic issues aside, I think, the overall topic is just one way of looking at things. More than important than size, turnover, or profitability, is quality and integrity. Any poorly focused and inconsistent enterprise operates below par. It is in this space, like war, that effort is wasted.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and have concluded the key reason for 3D Realms success isn't what they do right, it's what they don't do wrong. I've seen some pretty bland and mediocre performers succeed because they kept out of trouble. Likewise, the rebel genius gets hammered because where they have vision but poor execution. Here, right and wrong can get a bit hazy.

Looking to the left, we have the monolithic publishers. Looking to the right, we have swarms of independents. However you cut it, competition is stiff and not going to get easier, which is why I'm not going to play the game. If you do get suckered, you just end up dancing to some untested authority and popularity. This is fine for some, but not what leaders are made of.

Some people have said I'm a bit arrogant. Arrogant in the sense that I think leadership qualities should be developed in everyone, perhaps, and that long-term success is only built on mutual success. In this, the circle of capitalism versus socialism is squared in my mind. The Romans favoured the middle way and built a fantastically succesful empire on this premise.

I agree, who we are matters.

On a slight tangent, here's a thought provoking article I turned up:

The Rebel Rules
Daring to be Your-Self in Business

by Chip Conley, A Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster, New York

It's probably not the place to mention it, but along with Daoism, Buddhism, and martial arts, I've found another philosophy has changed my outlook in a deep and meaningful way. It's focus on quality and relationships, or products and marketing, that I've been yapping on about over the past year or so is coincidental, as is it's encouragement to follow a Roman strategy of avoiding trouble and building on the positive. You may laugh, and it caused some surprise among my Japanese friends. Its name? Shinto.

Here goes nothing... *click*


"Survival fears are what's holding them back"

Call me a communist cynic or something, but from a certain pint on I'd say it's the common effect of the richer you get the greedier you get. It's not a fear of survival but a fear of making less money than possible. Once you've make 10 million on something, god forbid you'd make 3 million next time, what a disaster.

id could "bomb" 10 times and still be laughing all the way to the bank and retirement, yet the visually stunning architectural walkthrough (aka doom3) surely sounded like the safer bet.

(Should I ever end up in that situation I might do the same, I really hope not, but who knows. I hope I at least would feel dirty about it ;) )


I wouldn't call the entrenched independants as a case of greed. These studios continue doing what they like and what they're good at. I'm sure Carmack really loves working on FPS -- why should he work on something else?

Few people have many ground-breaking ideas during their lives. In any field, most succesful people come up with a great concept early in their career, then spend their lifetime perfecting it. Their style is unique, so it breaks new ground when it's first introduced. Afterward, the style gets better but it's still the same thing.

Take Monet for example. He's a great painter and he introduced a beautiful and unique style. However, most of his paintings were in this one style. Established game developers are the same: they come up with a style of game that's unique then perfect it. Look at Peter Molyneux for example, most of his games are variations on the "god-game" concept he invented with Populous.

That's why fresh blood is needed in any creative industry, they're the ones who bring the new ideas to the table. A few geniuses can come up with many unique and great ideas during their career -- Picasso painted in a great variety of styles -- but most of the time it's the new people who invent.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Call me a communist cynic or something, but from a certain pint on I'd say it's the common effect of the richer you get the greedier you get. It's not a fear of survival but a fear of making less money than possible. Once you've make 10 million on something, god forbid you'd make 3 million next time, what a disaster.

Yup. As I said in earlier topics, the primary fear of change isn't the unknown future, it's the fear of losing what you've got. This isn't communism or cynicism. It's the way things work. However, being aware of this allows you to do something about it. This is one of many reasons why I've developed an ongoing interest in Zen Buddhism.

Few people have many ground-breaking ideas during their lives. In any field, most succesful people come up with a great concept early in their career, then spend their lifetime perfecting it. Their style is unique, so it breaks new ground when it's first introduced. Afterward, the style gets better but it's still the same thing.

My first invention featured in the Sunday Times Innovation Section, and was a piece of novel hardware. An earlier invention, funnily enough, became part of a software product released afterwards. Since then, I've had successes in the so-called soft sciences, and a raft of ongoing developments that have been mirrored elsewhere. The hard part, for me, is getting product to market.

Reading widely and not being scared to ask questions helps.


- I wouldn't call the entrenched independants as a case of greed.

I meant that in a general sense, not indies and/or games business specifically.
I chose to call it greed, you could also call it an addiction/dependency if that sounds less offensive. The more you get the more you want/desire. There are, of course, always exceptions.

- These studios continue doing what they like and what they're good at. I'm sure Carmack really loves working on FPS -- why should he work on something else?

I don't expect id to do anything else, I myself am only interested in FP and because of that only work with FP.

Personally when I whine about lack of innovation I mean that within the FP "genre", I beleive there's a lot of good stuff that can be done within it.

Doom3 however, IMHO, didn't even break even (in terms of gameplay) with its predecssors from 10+ years earlier. (I thought it was a visual masterpiece, cool tech, just the worst / most boring game I've ever played.)

Granted, they may not have had any desire to innovate or they just suck at it :) .. it just saddens me that those who've reached the point, where they could easily afford thinking outside the box for a minute, often don't.

Scott Miller


New Prey trailer, showing gameplay from very early in the game (when you only have the one weapon, so far).


Many of us found Doom 3 to be not revolutionary, but exceptional and memorable nonetheless. The fact that it was a 180 degree turn for id (emphasis on single player, content and atmosphere compared with their previous "pure adrenaline" games) shows that, while the result may not be to everybody's tastes, it WAS something different from what you had come to expect from the company that brought you fast-paced carnage by the ton.

The gunfights themselves were just ok, but the memory of some sections still send shivers down my spine. In a world were FPS means "run ahead with guns blazing", Doom 3 worked hard to make me scared of moving into the next section. It's the experience that counts, but as with hypnotism, you must be willing and interested.

If 3DRealms can change the way I think of scenery and space with Prey, I won't fault them for having yet another rocket launcher in the game.

My big beef with the original article is the way it focuses on the benefits of small studios while emphasizing the problems of the corporate ones. The future of the videogames industry relies on our ability to keep attracting the interest of the people at large. Innovating to keep ourselves from stagnating the same products over and over is important, but many other aspects play a role as well, chief among them the ability to deliver and the ability to surround our best talents with the resources so that they can build their vision. The road is paved with corpses of independent studios that had to stop short of their full potential due to the harsh reality of economics.


Everybody says the same thing about Doom 3. It was scary for about an hour and a half until its repetitive lack of variation became apparent, and then it became quickly dull.

"These studios continue doing what they like and what they're good at. I'm sure Carmack really loves working on FPS -- why should he work on something else?"

That's a question for him to answer. More relevantly to Binu's article, does the fact that iD still make FPSs after all this time mean that they are still relevant, still to be looked to as an important source of the industry's creative energy? I say no. iD etc are like a rock band in their 'concept' phase. Fair play to them and all that, but they really aren't where it's at.

And as for Molyneux, that vampire's been living off the talent of others for as long as anyone in Guildford cares to remember.


I'm still interested and planning to go into game design. I heard that since women are only 9% of the game design teams at companies that they get payed thousands less than men who do the same work. I've always heard that women still get paid less across every job but in game design it seems to be a large paycheck gap.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Well, don't work for Binu, Whitney. His Gamasutra interview suggests he's only interested in himself, not sharing with other people, compounding the tilt in the transcript of the speech he gave. I'm sure he's a very able and shrewd man, that much is certain, but his agenda is doubtful. Seek out people of better persuasions or, if you're able, build a better alternative.

I've removed the bookmark and RSS feed. Read into that what you will.


"One of the major new IP’s launched by a publisher recently had only 24 months of development time."

What's this guy smokin'? 24 months? That's a luxury schedule compared to most in the game industry.

Binu Philip

Whitney: I'm really not aware of a gap in pay scale for women. Most developers will have a number of job levels for each position, ie. character artist level 1, character artist level 2 etc. Each level will have a number of qualifications, and each level should have a salary range. We have female developers here and they get paid according to the same system as everyone else. It is true that there aren't many female developers around period.

Charles, where do you get that I'm only interested in myself and not sharing with other people? I don't follow you.

Zagnut: 24 months is a good amount to do a sequel, but that's actually pretty short time to create a brand new franchise from scratch that is supposed to be innovative. Can you create something innovative in a shorter time frame? It's certainly possible, just less likely. If you want to try to innovate, more time helps.

Juuso - Game Producer

As some of the earlier posts show the term "independent game studio" itself is bit difficult to define. Some think of independent purely in terms of 'who owns the company' while some people think that independent studios need to be just one or few guys in the team.

Either way, I'm not sure if the IP is the biggest problem for indies, or "unrealistic" schedules. As an indie developer the biggest problem is simply put: money. Cash. Innovative ideas and hard work are something that indies can do, but selling the game is the tricky part. Building the better mouse trap doesn't work, you have to know how to sell it as well. It would be nice to build an indie empire around a brand, but building that brand takes time. And eventually the IP can be a valuable asset, but before the 5 years of work, you have to fund your game development in some way. If you are an indie - then outside funding might not be possible, and loans perhaps too risky. I believe the challenge for indies is not just some specific detail... but the whole picture. How to create an innovative & original game that you have passion for... and that the players would feel that way too. How to handle the total game production? How to market the game? How to build sustainable long-term business while surviving short-term. Those are the big questions indies tackle these days.

> "Rising development costs"
It's true that AAA title development costs are millions while a solo indie can (barely) survive with just few thousand dollar budget and 6-9 months development cycle. Of course this is attractive for those who think it's "less risky". But the problem (budget cost) doesn't vanish, it transforms. If some indie builds a successful game in 6 months (after serious design, testing etc.), it can take weeks or just few months to copycats to enter to the same business. The golden business ideas are get copied at lightspeed - and it costs just few thousand bucks. The concept is tested, the original game works, just change the skin (graphics) and add few features and you are ready to promote your 'own big hit game'. When Diner Dash reported to sell thousands of copies in mere days, it didn't take much time for Snowy's Lunch Rush and Mystic Inn to appear. I bet there are lots of more clones out there, they just haven't made it to portals - yet. Diner Dash kind of started the "serve the customers at restaurant" games series (same has happened in different genres, like in "match-3 games"). It is impossible for Diner Dash to protect the IP of their game... they cannot stop others from copying the idea/game rights/design.

The distribution of indie games: self-publish/directly selling through a website, game portals, content delivery systems (like valve's steam), publishers, even through retail stores create a variety of marketing possibilities for indies to choose from. Building brand (and getting IP rights) can be crucially important for independent studios that are bigger than just one person, but there's more into it: small guys and casual game makers might not have the possibilities to protect the IPs, so they must build their brand in some different way, and choose the distribution channels that suit them.

N. Evan Van Zelfden

Charles, as the journalist who conducted the Gamasutra interview you mention, I should like to comment.

First, and sadly, there wasn't enough space to tell the Edge of Reality story completely. What made it into the final word-count is really a how-to for developers.

Other articles from other outlets would have other facets. But, as an observer, there is one remarkable fact about Binu Philip as a studio head -- and I haven't seen this anywhere else. He is generous beyond measure, treats his people well, and cares about their well-being.

If you're perceptive, you'll begin to notice little things over time, when speaking with Binu Philip, but he certainly doesn't brag about such things. I had to dig deep, to talk to former employees, and hear what people said when they thought no one was listening: I can independently verify that he cares about his people.

But, as true as all that is, that information doesn't offer the how-to hungry developer instant know-how.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Well, I'm going to climb down a bit, here. We've all got issues of character to deal with and I'm no exception. Better to deal with it and move forward, etcetera.

Binu, the general philosophy Van Zelfden helped illuminate in the Gamasutra article is similar to my own. Where I do take issue is on two points: using opportunity to leverage your own growth, and the exploitation of cheap labour. The tilt was a little two-faced and selfish. I'll accept this may be a matter of presentation. It's only fair that I highlight this and give you the opportunity to clarify any misunderstanding.

This is a bit of a tangent but, I believe, leadership character is important for the industry, and the example set can help make it a strong force for political change on a wider level and, long-term, play its part in raising the calibre of game content and how it connects with wider society in the same way more traditional arts are seen as having long-term relevancy. Yes, this is an obvious thought with hindsight but mentioning it puts it on the agenda and may help shape individual and collective effort more effectively.

I have a parallel situation closer to home and am seeing how this perspective can make a real difference in improving the quality of how people act and relate to each other. Here, I’m not just talking of the usual suspects. I’m talking about individual qualities of leadership at all levels. The general environment, organisational policies, and people matter. Nothing is too big or too small not to count. Cheating the system, whether through design or marketing, just adds fuel to the fire. It’s why the get ahead versus get along mentality irritates me. Now I mention it, this is something I aim to fix.

Given the challenges, there’s been some interesting developments in the overall drift of the industry. I think, this is something to bank and build on. Clearly, things can and will get better if more positive and constructive attitudes continue to take root.

Binu Philip

Charles: "Where I do take issue is on two points: using opportunity to leverage your own growth, and the exploitation of cheap labour."

I don't recall saying anything about exploiting cheap labor, can you point that out? Development costs are going up dramatically. It's a function of higher quality art available on next gen hardware, and other factors which drive up the amount of resources it takes to do a good next gen game. Those factors can be mitigated by investing in good tools, and when appropriate using good outsource partners.

On the point of using opportunity to leverage my own growth, again, I don't see where you're coming from. This talk was given to show independent studios that they have a rightful place in our industry and they can succeed.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Leveraging licence deals to build up your own capital then cutting your former business partners loose, and using cheap labour in Asia spring to mind. It may not be your intent, but that’s how it read to me. It may have been an incorrect assumption on my part, but it’s equally incorrect to assume the other person automatically knows what you mean behind the words.

Usefully, this helps illuminate the single biggest difficulty with online discussion, relationships between various interests in the game industry, and negotiation at a diplomatic level between nation states. Looking at plans and words is the easy part. Looking beyond misunderstandings and drawing out the positive motivations that are at the heart of the matter is the real key to success.

I’ve been savagely burned by people who can’t uphold a contract, so have a pretty fierce view on these things. On the other hand, liars, cheats, and thieves aren’t the whole world, and where someone does take a respectable position you don’t want to be so blinded by negative history that you don’t see it when it comes along. Still, the question gives you a chance to remove any doubt.

Binu Philip

Thanks for painting the picture further, it gives me additional understanding on where you’re coming from. We intend to have one team working on existing franchises and licenses and another team working on an original project. We certainly are not cutting our former business partners loose either. There is a symbiotic relationship between publishers and developers. Both parties need what each other brings to the table. At the end of the day, we need good publishing relationships, and publishers need good developers. That is true of work for hire projects, and for projects where the developer retains original IP rights.

On the subject of outsourcing, yes we do intend to outsource portions of the game that make sense. The vast majority of our games are made internally, but some things, such as cinematics, music and some art are better done externally. I say some art because most of our art is still done in house. Outsourcing is especially important to an independent studio b/c we need to manage our costs well. This isn't about cutting jobs, it's about meeting all the additional work that goes into PS3 & Xbox 360 games. I don’t see why that’s bad.

I agree that online discussion can be a minefield. Integrity is very important and I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding about that. If you want further clarification, feel free to email me. I’d be happy to chat further.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Given the tilt between your comments on the industry and your own company, and the detailed references to switching development emphasis and outsourcing, it did ring a negative bell in my mind. Shifting from licensed to self-owned IP, and outsourcing always raises difficult questions of change and the balance of power.

We live in a cynical business environment where presentation has never been so slick. Knowing what to believe isn't easy. Generally, I think, your opinions and approach are sound. If you can iron out the presentation issues and continue to demonstrate high quality relationships internally and externally, you deserve considerable success.

In the same way many disadvantaged people and communities need positive role models, business and politics are in the same mess. Slick talking asset strippers are all the rage, and the media rarely prints anything worth holding in our memories. Moving on, I think, your model is sound and something people should consider very carefully.

On the quiet, I've been challenging my own communication. I've made a few habitual mistakes over the past few weeks I've become increasingly unhappy with, almost to the point where I think I ought to keep my mouth shut. Integrity is great but how we communicate is equally important.

Thanks for the invitation to discuss this further, Binu, but I won't burden you with that extra inconvenience. This discussion has been interesting enough and generated a few opportunities for reflection. Perhaps, the best thing to do is let things sink in and see how the future unfolds. After all, yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is where we'll all be living.

Rohan Hilton

I think the issue of Indie developers has been recognised by Nintendo. Retro Studios (straight out of Texas, which has been forgotten in this post) is an example of a rookie studio who blew into the game scene, even though they're now fully owned by Nintendo. Nintendo has stated that the Wii is a developer friendly console, as it is easy to develop for (using similar architecture to the Gamecube)and also the development kits are significantly cheaper. Now, indie developers strive for innovation in their games in order to sell new IPs, and what better way to innovate then to develop a game for the Wii? Studios like Nibris, Crossbeam Studios and LifeSpark Studios have already taken up Nintendo's offer for indie developers, though the question of publishers for their respective games is still out there.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Thinking of developing external licenses, one license I'd happily part with a few million to own or spend a chunk of my life on is Sol Bianca. Well done, the scope for producing a classic big budget movie and well textured game is there. I think, I have an eye for something worth betting on and Sol Bianca is something that's captured my interest. As money and time aren't in infinite supply, some bright spark might read this and run with it. Just don't screw it up. You can't run fast enough...

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