More pc developers hit the pavement

I’m hate to see anyone lose their jobs and i -really- don’t want to talk poorly of people of whom i have no direct knowledge. So i’ll pretend that Westwood is staffed by robots.

They weren’t a bad company but they wallowed in mediocrity for too long and paid the price in a buisness where a few winners take all. They perpetually held gamers in this pre-pubescent stereotype and allowed it to seep through into their games, focused their developmental resources on the wrong things like live action, were extremely relunctant to change the “Westwood paradigm” even when other games made progress by leaps and boungs, and misserably failed at every non-RTS project they tried. Remember the Lands of Lore RPG series?

Its funny but apparently no one played Emperor: Battle for Dune but me. It had over 2 1/2 hours of unique music by three different composers, as well as the most blatantly homosexual harkonnens ever filmed; and cameos from several relatively named actors. The game tanked so miserably they publically renounced all support for it after several months: which imo was too bad, it had the best skirmish AI of any Westwood game. Add this to the total failure of Earth and Beyond and its clear they’ve been a money pit for some time.

To me Westwood was a living contemporary example of the old axiom - Innovate or Die. Everything WW did someone else did considerably better. Developers with AAA budgets without AAA games don’t last long. As their collateral from the C&C series dried up they ceased to be a developer whom had a few misses with a storied past to a just another company to something that was flatly failing.

Well, S! C&C Red Alert. May the 400$, 800 hit point medium tank you uncreatively used, unchanged, in every single frikin game you made, have a place in the big RTS scrapyard in the virtual sky.

That’s why almost all blockbusters are sequels or retreads of existing TV shows and comic books?

Just curious, since you didn’t mention it. Was their Bellevue, WA office originally another company? Which one?

so the tenor of the comment that EA could be gearing up to try on Vivendi isn’t that far fetched. :?:

to me (an outsider) it appears as if EA sees MS as a real threat and might see MS getting Vivendi as a cause of some serious problems down the road.

EA was all smiles when MS came into the console business b/c it gave EA leverage against Sony, but now maybe EA realizes that MS is going to vertically integrate in the console market and that whole thing doesn’t sit well.

am i in left field? i am asking since i am only trying to think of this in a business sense.

Actually, I screwed up when I said “EA Vancouver.” Should have read
EA Bellevue (closed in 02) was originally Manley & Associates, bought in 1997.

The Vancouver office is the former Distinctive Software.

so the tenor of the comment that EA could be gearing up to try on Vivendi isn’t that far fetched.

to me (an outsider) it appears as if EA sees MS as a real threat and might see MS getting Vivendi as a cause of some serious problems down the road.

EA was all smiles when MS came into the console business b/c it gave EA leverage against Sony, but now maybe EA realizes that MS is going to vertically integrate in the console market and that whole thing doesn’t sit well.

am i in left field? i am asking since i am only trying to think of this in a business sense.

I doubt it. EA might want Vivendi Interactive, but the problem is that Microsoft got to the table first. Microsoft and Vivendi are already in negotiations, and there is no way in hell EA (or any other company on the planet) can beat Microsoft in a bidding war. MS has $43 billion in cash and no debt. And Microsoft needs Vivendi Interactive a lot more than EA does.

EA may be the biggest game publisher on the planet, but it’s not MS.

For example:

EA’s market cap is $7.5 billion.
MS’ market cap is $261 billion.

With cash on hand, MS could buy EA and still have $35 billion leftover.

The only way MS doesn’t get Vivendi Interactive is if the French get too greedy and ask for too much, or some kind of weird personality/ego thing gets involved. The former could happen, but I don’t see the latter. Vivendi is hurting desperately and beggers can’t afford to be choosers.

Ah, thanks.

Sigh.

I remember visiting the Bellevue office when they through a big opening bash for it. I was participating a Seattle multimedia developers group at the time and someone from EA gave us invites.

The office was impressive, but it was depressing to realize, on starting several conversations, that no one knew anything about any of the 8 bit EA games. No nostalgic conversations went anywhere… these people only knew Need 4 Speed and FIFA et al. A few of the employees I talked to had no idea who Trip Hawkins was.

I didn’t bother applying for a job; wasn’t my type of scene anymore.

The office was impressive, but it was depressing to realize, on starting several conversations, that no one knew anything about any of the 8 bit EA games. No nostalgic conversations went anywhere… these people only knew Need 4 Speed and FIFA et al. A few of the employees I talked to had no idea who Trip Hawkins was.

I think that’s going to be increasingly true everywhere. Consider that at 21, one would be too young to have really experienced the arcade scene of the 80’s. It also means you’d have been almost too young for the NES era or at the least needed parents that wanted to pay for games/systems for you at a very young age.

Unless these folks coming out of college are going back to the past and buying old hardware (and with computers like the C64 or Atari 800, that’s even less likely), their first experiences with games are probably going to be the 16-bit era at best, and that would’ve been in their teens. For many of today’s gamers, their first console was probably a Playstation. One of the reasons I think gaming is changing and shifting away from PCs is simply because younger gamers are weaned on console games now, whereas the personal computer, and having one in your home, was an enormously big deal when the older generation (guys like me, in our early 30’s) was growing up. It’s different now because the PC is a lot more ubiquitous in households and consoles are so cheap that people are likely to have that even if they don’t own a PC.

This shit makes me feel old.

–Dave

Yeah, it’s scary. Talking about MULE or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the 21st Century equivalent to our parents waxing nostalgic about Buddy Holly or Sinatra.

What’s MULE?

Bah. People want to be on the winning team, simple as that. Consoles get more attention, and are more socially acceptible, so right now they’re the focus of attention. People are sheep.

…and it came to pass :roll:

Nevertheless, EA cuts a couple of studies and we’re crying about it? Wtf? I’m surprised they didn’t fire all the people responsible for these adventures into career killing disasters

EnB
Sims Online
Motorcity Online
[insert name of that reality based game]

wtf? Why should a company keep pumping money into a well? Just because they have it and they should? I mean, c’mon.

Who can take one look at EnB and say that its even worth $1m in dev costs? Let alone, what? $10m (last time I checked)?!?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 2003-2004 is going to be the banner period for industry consolidation. What EA just did is NOTHING, compared to whats coming. Mark my words.

In a related beef…

The March issue of CGM has Freelancer on the cover. They also had EnB on the cover at some point.

EnB is now an established disaster

With the imminent failure of Indelible Creatures (or whatever they’re calling it these days), the jury is still out on how Freelancer will do.

The latter is developed by the same company that MS forked out a FORTUNE for and in turn got one disaster (Starlancer), let two titles go (Conquest, Loose Cannon) and faithfully kept limping along with Freelancer.

And CGM puts it on the cover. A niche title. And I think we know that niche titles don’t sell mags, right Steve?. So, is this because Freelancer ended up being pitched as a mass market title (mouse control and all) by MS (thereby straying from the sim aspect) or an attempt at spotlighting niche titles?

I’m assuming the former.

Given the former and if Freelancer tanks and MS fires everyone over at DA (who have one more XBox title that keeps slipping, Brute Force) - are we going to cry too? Here we have a company losing millions on a startup, a crotchety old EIC putting a niche title (No Steve, its not a mass market title!) on the cover - and neither of these actions are going to mean anything if the people responsible for the damn game, screw it up.

We [developers] are 100% responsible for crap like this. No matter how much money gets tossed into a title, some can’t seem to get it right!! And then everyone cries about innovation being the death of the industry. If someone gives you a chance and you blow it, who the heck are you gonna blame?

I hate this industry sometimes. No matter HOW you look at it, you simply can’t come up with a win-win situation.

That’s why almost all blockbusters are sequels or retreads of existing TV shows and comic books?

Thats not really an applicable example imo, the industries are very different. If your going to make an RTS game its not enough just to make a generic Starcraft that’s only as good as Starcraft was, 1 1/2 years later. Who cares? I guess what i meant was Innovate=Do better in almost all ways than the competition. Some MMORPG thats inferior in many ways and only better in a couple isn’t going to dethrone Everquest anytime soon, (which goes along with my assuption that the PC gaming market is saturated). People cry about how ‘indie’ games don’t take and its just the same problem just more exacerbated. Something like Kohan is innovative, but is itinnovative -enough- to overcome low budget eye candy? Sure it has some cool ideas, but are they cool enough to get people to quit their favorite game?

Just to be fair, we don’t know from the outside how much of the titles’ quality or innovation–or lack thereof–came from the developers themselves, and how much came from the publisher. As an independent developer, you’re in a rare position of being able to develop what you want, and take chances. For the rest of us, the best we can do is try to convince publishers and marketing guys that something they don’t understand will sell enough copies to make them money. That opportunity doesn’t come very often.

I think it’s very likely that EA bought Westwood and promptly stifled them. I mean, as much as I like some EA games, look at the track record! They bought some of the most innovative companies (Bullfrog, Maxis and Westwood among them) and the innovation and creativity pretty much stopped. It’s become public knowledge that EA wouldn’t back the Sims until Will Wright had created enough of it on his own time that they could actually see it and play it, and even then it was an extended argument to get funding for it.

That alone makes me willing to bet that EA bought Westwood and gave them strict orders to become an RTS factory, and to keep pumping out more of the same titles with more of the same features.

Well, in a hit-driven industry, you have to take chances, knowing full well most of what you make will fail, in order to make that one hit. I’ve told many people, flush with delusions of grandeur upon getting their first big contract, that if they took that money and played the slots in Vegas until the first milestone rather than do any work, they’d have a higher chance of hitting it rich. Most of them never made it to that first milestone, but that’s a whole different thread about how I became bitter :-).

But that having been said, Freelancer and a lot of the other likely flops violate far too many cardinal rules to be excusable. What the hell is up with game developers who don’t understand the obvious need for skipping auteur FMV, the escape key as universal exit button, arbitrary game saves, inverted flight control, a full range of balanced skill levels, easily entered cheat codes for people who tire of a game but want to see the eye candy they paid to see, and fully configurable controls? This isn’t rocket science. It’s bloody obvious. And yet it never seems to sink in with some people.

At this point, I want John McGlaughlin sitting behind these guys as they create their app, screaming WRONG! at the top of his lungs in their ears every time they make one of these stupid decisions. Maybe that would work. Maybe the publishers need to start smacking their developers around until this sinks in. Hell, put all this in the damned contract from the get-go.

Umm, ever played a console game? Even a really wildly successful one? No FMV skipping, no arbitrary saves, no arbitrary control configuration, no full range of difficulty level (you’re lucky if there are any), no easily entered cheat codes. Standard menu button is about the only thing you get. Didn’t seem to hurt the console industry.

While I’d like to see much of what you listed in every game, it’s not exactly a mainstream concern. That’s just us nerds bickering on message boards…

Given that this is basically what EA did to Origin (keep pumping out Ultima Online expansion packs, cancel everything else), methinks you are correct.

Not to sound like a broken record, but don’t assume the developer is making these decisions and the publisher knows better. While I imagine that is sometimes the case, I think it’s more frequent that developers argue for the best design, and publishers (who often don’t play as many games) veto it.

Here’s an example. On my last title, we had the right stick mapped to free look. Push the stick to the right, the character turns and looks to the right. The publisher made us switch it so that pushing the stick to the left made the character turn and look to the right. It was backwards for us and for 98% of the games on the market.

The publisher’s reason? Jak and Daxter had the stick work that way, and the publisher’s producer “got used to it.”

I hate this and when they don’t give me the option to change I often won’t bother to get past the initial learning curve. If a game annoys me I no longer feel I have to finish it.

[quote=“DaveC”]

I hate this and when they don’t give me the option to change I often won’t bother to get past the initial learning curve. If a game annoys me I no longer feel I have to finish it.[/quote]

And that’s exactly what happened to me with Freelancer. As I get older bad 3D increasingly causes migraine headaches. Trying to fly Freelancer like Freespace 2 and getting the opposite result nearly made me vomit. And I spent the following weekend ill as a result. This could have been remedied with inverted (or frickin’ joystick) flight control, but nooooooo…

And if it’s the publisher’s fault, well then point conceded…

I’d likely buy Freelancer if I could fly it like I want to (or like StarGlider II, or Freespace 2’s mouse control, or well you get my point)…