The serious business of making games

I can’t wait to see what franchise he next gets to drive straight into a brick wall.

I came across this article in all place Politico. A plea for improving the work environment of game developers.

200,000,000+ games is actually a lot of games. It’s nearly half as large as my backlog.

I think that’s almost as many games as WildTangent put out back in the day.

what is he even talking about

Copies sold is the only way it even slightly makes sense.

Maybe he’s implying that all the games they published were just one game sold over and over with different licenses?

Great, now he needs to write a blog called, Why do all of our games have a crappy UI?

Why all of our games have such a tiny font, yet such huge volumes of text to read…

This is probably covered in your article about poor UI, but is my chief complaint of Spiderweb Software games! You’d think that their core audience is getting older and older, yet that font gets more unreadable with each new HD monitor I get :(

I was… around for some of this retro stuff. It’s not alienating or unfamiliar to everyone who dislikes that approach. If he is happy with it, fine. It’s certainly a turn-off to me, but I am not going to write home about it.

183 posts were split to a new topic: Videogames, the Me Too movement, Alec Holowka, Jeremy Soule

I am not game developer, but I am software developer, so “why some software is a success” is a topic that is important to me.

Success is building something people want to use and under budget.

We don’t know what people want.
We don’t know how much is going to cost.

My conclusion is that “why software is a success” is a mystery. It should not be possible to make money from building software.

I have tried to talk with users and ask what they want. Simple question failed. “Do you guys want a button here to cancel the order?” replies where like “when we make orders, the follow request include the date” or “is important to make sure the phone is correct”. I tried to talk with CEOs and people in political roles. “do we put a cancel button in the order?” and the answers where “Let me tell you our principle priorities for the projects <2 hours talk here> and thats why communication is important” (question was not answered). My conclusion is that users do not speak english, or spanish or any other language and have aphasia. I have tried with images I call mockups, users are also blind.

This deeps my opinion that building software is just not possible.

And that’s building software that supposedly has somewhat clear functional specifications, one assumes.

Now translate that to games where the basic functional specification is: be entertaining/interesting for X user base for Y amount of time (in the case of live games).

Sadly, a lot of the time it ends up translated in: Be superficially attractive enough to warrant a buy for X user base and entertaining enough for Y user base (influencers or reviewers). Superficial attractiveness translates to cool screenshots and videos and clear bullet points for the Steam page/back of the box (USPs).

The points of not knowing what people want is still there, though.

I do feel costs are more tightly pre-assessed than in some other software development fields, out of necessity (huge costs and no guaranteed income unless you sell to the final user base, you don’t have a corporate/public client paying the bill). Although cost control is probably a factor of project size anyway, with larger projects having better projections due to bigger structural buffers (more hands on the project). Not that projects do not run overcosts, only that it’s less common than in most consulting projects I’ve had some visibility into the financials.

I used to consult with academics who needed to integrate geographic information systems into their field projects. We had those conversations all the time. Eventually, I turned to my anthropology training and just relied on participant observation to get the info I needed; I’d spend a couple of days watching / working with the people using the systems and then plan from what I saw. The clients liked it, but it was not an effective business model.

Jeff Vogel wrote a good follow-up to the “Why Our Games Look Like Crap” post with some cost and schedule examples.

I mean, look at him: he uses Google Blogger still!

It sounds like he keep releasing the same game for the same public, and it works because he dont take a pause, start working on the next has soon the first is finished. This removes a lot of the unknowns. But he is not reaching anything new, new public. Is a recipe of stagnation that work for him.

Yes and no. He alternates between remakes and new games to avoid things getting stale. He has several different IPs in different settings. There are differences in combat systems and other things, I’ve been told. All use the same tech though.
He explained in another post that he keeps improving everything. The UI gets (even) more polished with every game, modifications of the engine are being made, art is upgraded (the 20-30% weakest art or so). That’s why the standard answer to “Which Jeff Vogel Game should I try first?” is “Always the latest”.
For Jeff’s standard Queen’s Wish is a very risky project. It’s a new IP with new graphics, an unproven setting and a longer dev cycle.