I tried to find the source for what Molyneux, and could find none. Must have been hearsay

Is this what you’re looking for, Zambuni?

Have you tried either of those games?

This whole idea of valuing innovation so highly seems a bit off and edging towards the “games as art” land again.

I value innovation within a genre, like what Kohan did.

I realize it’s an insult to all of the working class people on this message board to even mention “art,” but really, innovation within genre is what everyone is talking about. There can only be a tiny fraction of “new” game types, so people are interested in innovative worlds and game mechanics. And they rarely receive them, I think, because there are too few truly creative people in the industry. Most can craft a game, a la a Raven, but few create something with, at a minimum, a unique look and/or feel.

I don’t think a game like Kohan would be hard to sell to publishers, especially if you could attach a license to it.

This is just lazy thinking, and it’s exactly what’s wrong with the industry. Where are the top selling licenses? Most of the big selling games are original IP created specifically for the platforms (and their sequels, of course).

Do you really think Kohan with the LOTR license would outsell the original Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, or WarCraft? There may be reasons why Kohan wasn’t as successful as those games but it probably had nothing to do with whether it was licensed or not.[/quote]

No, I haven’t tried either A Tale in the Desert or EQ2, though I’ll certainly try the latter. The former doesn’t have enough immediate appeal to rope me into trying it.

Costyikan’s example of a game that excited him wasn’t innovative within a genre. It was some crazy dancing ninja typing game or something. He seemed to label any game with a III or IV as hopelessly anti-innovative, which means Thief III can’t possibly be interesting in that sense, etc.

I never said Kohan done as a LotR game would outsell AOE, but it would have sold a helluva a lot better than something called…Kohan. It wouldn’t be hard to outsell Kohan. That wasn’t really my point, though. My point was that a big publisher like EA wouldn’t be averse to an innovative RTS game. I suspect Costyikan wouldn’t really put a game like Kohan into his “innovative” category, though. He seemed to want games that are really out there and not games that innovate familar gameplay through a better interface, for example.

Good catch. Yes, it was Hungary and not india, that’s what was throwing off my searches. Relevant quote follows (emphasis mine):

PM: I’ll tell you what I’d do if I was starting out now. I wouldn’t even attempt to become a developer, not in the sense you recognise. I’d go to someone like Criterion and buy all their engine technology. I’d get in contact with some art houses in Hungary, which there are lots of. I’d hire one or two concept artists over here, get them to do the concept art, and then send all the middle stuff over to Hungary, and then I’d concentrate completely and solely on the actual gameplay without any of the technical stuff.

FP: So what you’re saying, fundamentally, is that the solution to the industry’s problems is… third-world sweatshop labour?

PM: Well, it is, actually – that’s exactly it. It’s not quite THAT cheap, but Hungary will charge a quarter of what any studio here will charge, and that enables you to actually get something to show people, which you might not be able to do here.

Not exactly as damning as I portrayed, but sweatshot labor indeed.

Edit: And I should look at the thread twice before I repost things.

I’ve been thinking about the Costikyan post for a while, and it seems to me that judging the entire industry’s mood by the mood at GDC is problematic at best.

First and foremost, the entire industry does not go to GDC. It’s too damn expensive. This limits the attendees to certain subgroups:

  1. Small development houses that are trying to shop their product to a publisher. Unfortunately, I would think that if they are at GDC trying to do this, it might be because they have failed using the “regular channels”.

  2. Developers and wannabe developers looking for jobs in the industry. Another subset with a less-than-stable future.

  3. Developers who have been sent by their respective companies to learn and, perhaps, recruit.

  4. Companies trying to sell their product, like Alias/Wavefront or Discreet.

  5. Fans

  6. The press.

  7. Developers who feel that GDC is so important as a learning tool that they are willing to pay their own way in order to attend.

8 ) Academics looking to form curricula or make contacts to get research money for their school (an ever increasing number).

I’m probably missing some, but that seems to be a good list to start with.

If you consider that Greg Costikyan probably only associates with other developers, you can take away 4 of those 8 categories. If you look at the remaining 4, 2 of them have a pretty depressed look on life. If you consider that number 7 is the vast minority, you can increase the ratio of depressed, unsatisfied developers to happy, glad-to-meetcha developers, and you can see why GDC feels like the entire industry is going to hell in a handbasket. Personally, I felt it was probably the brightest GDC I’ve seen in 3 years. Last year everybody was dealing with September 11th and how meaningless our profession feels when compared to events of that magnitude. The year before, EA layed off most of Origin days before the conference, which really put a damper on most of the people I talked with that year.

In any case, I would have to say that the industry is not passionately crying out to make new and original games. The industry is crying out for:

  1. Stable work enviroments that have predictable paychecks, user-friendly tools, a minimum of overtime, and a good management team.
  2. Number One pretty much covers it.


There is a place for that, but some people make the choice of living their life doing what they believe in over living for comfort and stability. Such a person would rather work on an innovative game they will feel proud of having spent a year or more of their life on, than spending it, say, on the latest annual update of EA FIFA.

There is a place for that, but some people make the choice of living their life doing what they believe in over living for comfort and stability. Such a person would rather work on an innovative game they will feel proud of having spent a year or more of their life on, than spending it, say, on the latest annual update of EA FIFA.[/quote]

Gosh, that’s a pretty stupid way of classifying people. So you’re trying to say that people can’t do both?

Another problem with GDC is it only reflects the industry here in the US. Very little of it is devoted to Japanese games makers and they often don’t do things or see things the same way their American counterparts too. Europe as well…

Given all the Euro companies producing PC games these days, they’re probably just as, if not more relevant, to the industry as US developers.


With all due respect to Peter, he needs to get back into the real world.

How much does he think Rollercoaster Tycoon cost? How much does he think the original Sims cost?

If a project is well designed and well managed, you can definitely do a AAA game for under $2 million.

And to add to that, Sim City, Deer Hunter, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and heck Myst were all done on relatively small budgets.

It really bugs me when I hear people claim that you need huge bucks to have a competitive game. It compeltely ignores history. If I may be so bold, I would say that even Black & White should have been able to be done in less than 2 million. There is nothing in it that was inherently expensive. One might argue that he could have spent $400k to start with the latest Unreal engine and tweak that to his needs rather than reinvent the wheel since that is where one can only assume most of Peter’s budget went.

Some of the games in the IGF have pretty impressive production values and cost less than $30,000 to make.

That’s not quite true. There was a ton of Japanese and European game makers in attendance.

I tend to agree. For me, the only question that matters is: “Is the game fun?”

I personally don’t care that much about innovation. Give me Total Annihilation II with spiffed up graphics and I’m a happy guy.

The problem with costs in our industry IMO is that the “not invented hear” attitude becomes very costly. LIke I said in another post, how much of Black & White’s cost were due to them developing a 3D engine from scratch?

The budget on, for instance, Wild Earth, was tiny but its graphics are as good as any big name game because they licensed a 3D engine from someone else. Wild Earth’s budget was $5,000. (not including the developer’s time of course). But it took them 5 months to make it. Not 4 years. 5 months.

Sure, if you want to develop a state of the art, 3D engine, from scratch today it’ll cost more than $2 million. Then again, while we’re at it, maybe we should throw away compilers and rewrite them from scratch too. Don’t want to rely on someone else’s compiler, best to do that ourselves…

Umm, I don’t know about going that far. It was easily the best looking of the IGF games, sure, but it’s still not AAA level IMO.

Definitely. But most people, even though they don’t like to admit it, like a little sizzle with their steak. :D

Sure, I like the sizzle, but as Brad said, you can license a 3D engine and not break the bank. That might be beyond the means of indies, though I bet there are decent 3D engines you can license on a royalty basis that even indies can afford.

The artwork is pretty expensive, though. I’m familar with PopTop and they have six full-time artists and they are a relatively small shop. If a game takes two years to make, that’s two years of six full-time salaries to expense towards the project, as well as paying of their office space, equipment, benefits, etc. It’s not cheap.

It depends on the game, too. A game like TA wouldn’t take as much art, I’d guess. A game like Tropico needs a lot more art. There’s no way to hurry the art for the building and the character models if you want it to look good. Those guys just need time.

I do wonder about the wisdom of devoting a lot of manpower to making the cinematics in these games, though. It’s almost to where if you can’t be as good as Blizzard with cinematics, why even try? Most everything else looks shabby in comparison and I tend to hit the ESC key to skip it.


Umm, I don’t know about going that far. It was easily the best looking of the IGF games, sure, but it’s still not AAA level IMO.

Definitely. But most people, even though they don’t like to admit it, like a little sizzle with their steak. :D[/quote]

I agree that Wild Earth isn’t AAA. But VISUALLY it’s AAA. It competes right up there with the best of them.

But there’s a pretty big gulf between a $5,000 game made in a few months and the assertion that you need 2 MILLION dollars to make a competitive game. Such claims make me wonder if Peter has come out of a Dr. Evil like time portal from 20 years in the future.

…mmmmusssssst, resisssssttttt. If…only I…could reach…the…tranquilizer…gun…

Its a load of bollocks

After Molyneux is mysteriously tortured and dumped in the east river for saying such things, I am sure we will all have a better understanding of how its not ok to dismiss indie productions not running on 2mil budgets.[/quote]

Okay, so that’s a paraphrase and not a quote. And where do we interject the “so terribly clever” part? So the guy just wasn’t aware of the previous “run a movie studio” games…so sue him.

Anyone who has ever spoken to Peter Molyneux for ten minutes would probably have immediately gotten his sense of humility. That’s what stands out most about him! Hell, he’s harder on his projects and himself than most people seem to be. You should hear him bitch about how awful Black & White was.

A lot of it comes down to how much time it takes.

Developers could focus on trying to make their game (from start to finish) between 16 months and 24 months.

I personally think game projects that last 4 years are bad for everyone involved. Bad because the risk becomes astronomical. Bad from a personal life perspective – i.e. spending 4 years of ones young adulthood on one all encompassing thing isn’t IMO healthy. Maybe others disagree.

Now that I’m an old man (a whopping 31) I can’t imagine how I would feel if I looked back on my young adulthood having worked on 2 games that hardly anyone would care about:

“Hi, my name is Bob, and I spent 4 years of my life working on Star Trek: Vulcan Fury. It was canceled midway through development after working on it 16 hours a day for years…”

That’s why I think it’s such a shame when you see some development house try to write everything from scratch. For $400k you can get the Unreal engine. And for less than $10k you can get a pretty good 3D engine to license as well. And if you’re willing to pay decent royalties you can get a decent 3D engine license for even less.

Just to pick on Peter a bit more since he is the one talking about costs, if you take away the 3D engine from Black & White, how much is there? There isn’t a ton of artwork involved in that game. Not millions worth anyway.

That doesn’t take away from B&W, it’s just that I really think that Peter has a very different view of the direction the game industry is heading than some of the rest of us do. I think the future involves increasing licensing of mature technologies to be used in games to cut down on costs so that game developers can focus on the actual game and not the technology underneath the game.

That’s not quite true. There was a ton of Japanese and European game makers in attendance.[/quote]

In fact the Lifetime Achievment Award went to Gunpei Yokoi. His wife and son accepted it and it was a touching moment.

No doubt. This video isn’t exactly killer, but it’s pretty decent if you ask me. It’s from Rarebyte and they used the Crystal Space graphics engine with Megon physics system.

I’m sure i’ve been impressed with some indie game graphics, but they don’t come to mind right away, so they couldn’t have been THAT great. The main thing that indies have going for them, graphically speaking, is style. I would like to think that a group of people doing it themselves are more likely to take risks when it comes to styling.