Venting my frustrations with PC game-dev

My game hung when I tried to exit the first cave, and I’ve never pirated a game in my life. :-(

Preach on brother Michael. I feel your pain from time to time. :)

Although I don’t necessarily think it always has to be a ranking system… I think it’s a mistake nowadays to develop for systems the way games were written back in the 80’s and early 90’s. The internet is there, use it. Hellgate: London I think did an excellent job of blending the two… but unfortunately they were plagued by buggy release code and a desire to pretend their product was a MMO and charge for it like it is when it clearly isn’t. I honestly don’t understand why devs haven’t picked up on things developed way back with MMOs like Everquest where a launcher would allow for more frequent updates. Develop enough little treats and release them bi-weekly to keep people feeling like they’re getting great freebies.

Pirates suck yes, but so does not updating your offering for the new reality.

(Note: I’m totally sympathetic to the OP. This isn’t an attack on him, just an argumentative stance)

Edit: And before you argue that you need those non-internet connected consumers to sell to I say… go look at WoW. One thing about Blizzard is they did take care of hooking most gamers and half-gamers up to the internet. :)

Nah. I’m with you 100% Michael. You have my sympathies. (You’ll forgive me for hoping that I can’t ever empathize).

The sad thing is, if ILE had been founded in, say, 1994? I think you would have most likely have been just fine.

The problem with PC Gaming is not with the games, or the development platform. It’s none of that. It’s with the economic model of getting people to pay for it.

(A part of me hopes that Microsoft’s Next, next-gen will support a USB mouse and Keyboard for those games that want to use it. How frikkin hard would that be? I would be the happiest purchaser of that peripheral they ever had, but I digress).

It’s frustrating. I want to be pitching a PC game right now. In this market? Dream fucking on.

So it’s other routes, other possibilities. Indy PC games will continue. shrug Triple A cross-platformers will continue to shrink, but at least they will be there in some form and continue as a viable option for some publishers.

But the cream of the crop - and the dregs - are the extremes. It’s the Single A and Double A titles from start-ups and middle tier developers that have got the longterm shaft from PC piracy on the Internet. There are real long term consequences to the industry from this structural change. It’s not going away.

All the wishing in the world won’t change that - but it does not make it any less sad - or any less real.

That fits with everything I know on the subject

Which is part of why I just cannot muster much sympathy for the “if we just used more force we could force money out of your pocket into ours” argument. People who want to buy the game, do. People who don’t want to buy the game will find something else to do with their time.

Then the pirates are doing something other than playing commercial games.

Not hard at all. And they could do this today, on the 360. It has standard USB ports, you can plug standard keyboard and mice into it, no need for a special peripheral, (though given how much Microsoft charges for wireless adapters, I’m sure they’d have an “official Xbox keyboard/mouse set” that retails for like $100). The keyboard will actually even do things in some contexts (like type on Live), but AFAIK mice aren’t supported by the 360 APIs. The only thing stopping Microsoft from doing this is all the left over worry about people confusing the Xbox for a PC. Meanwhile, games like UT3 on the PS3 are doing this, supporting user-made mods, and all sorts of PC like stuff while Microsoft seems to be sitting on their asses in this area despite the fact that they’d have a huge advantage here if they had the balls to seize it because of all their desktop/software/API experience. Hopefully they’ll catch on to this before Little Big Planet and other PS3 offerings that take full advantage of this model blow up big and steal their lunch, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Correct. The design specs of the 360 deliberately cripples mice for game controls.

It’s a choice. They could patch it in a day or three - if they wanted to. Retroactively patching support in for already released games is another matter of course. Still not insurmountable. But I’d take it on just a going forward basis.)

That’s a rather significant design departure. It would also probably be the true death knell of PC Gaming. For that reason alone, I am not sure that Microsoft would lightly undertake that move.

Does not mean that I would not buy an overpriced 360 wireless mouse+keyboard combo if they did. I would buy it in a heartbeat; nay, half a heartbeat.

Give Stardock credit but in proper measure. He is a savvy businessman that happens to like computer games. The games he makes don’t suffer as much from piracy because they’re MUCH cheaper to make, and they are the kinds of games that pirates don’t care to play. They’re the equivalent of the grognards’ casual game. The frothing-mouthed Counter-strike player, with an itchy trigger finger hovering above every new torrent, has little desire to play a slow, old fashioned, turn based strategy game, with graphics equal to or less than what was a standard 5 years ago. If you want to use the Stardock model, you also need to make relatively cheap games with 5-10 man teams over a period of 9 months. And also have a side business (basically flashy screensavers) that keeps you afloat between games. In other words, goodbye Call of Duty 4, Titan Quest, and Company of Heroes.

What Blizzard realized years ago, back in the early days of, was that piracy was unstoppable, and providing a server-side, multiplayer experience, from the ground up, was the future of computer gaming. You could stop pirates from playing in multiplayer by making the game essentially a multiplayer game from the ground up and retaining control over the multiplayer servers. Every Blizzard game since Diablo 1 has been at it’s heart a multiplayer experience, balanced completely for the multiplayer crowd, and designed to retain control over their product by tying it into their own servers - even if it meant having to pay for some players, and some old game, 10+ years down the road, for free. Success compounds, and look where they are now.

Blizzard is very much like the successful restaurant that, for example, decides to hire more staff to increase sales during peak hours, even if it means that the staff is idle for long periods during the day, because it reduces order fulfillment times by half; compared to the other restaurant that decides that spending even more money on employees just won’t pay out, and wait times are long, and sales are flat.

It’s a shame about Iron Lore - Titan Quest is an excellent and refined game. The shame is that games like TQ are released into the wild as if piracy didn’t exist; like, you know, artists making the game for the love of the medium. Sadly, i think all publishers and devs need to learn the lessons of both Blizzard and Titan Quest if they want to survive. The era of the AAA, mostly-single player with a tacked-on, uninspired multiplayer game as an afterthought, is over.

Please don’t misunderstand. I realize you must feel bad enough as it is and now you have to defend yourself against everyone thinking they know better than you. I apologize for contributing to that. However, to clarify my previous statement, I wasn’t saying that TQ was a failure. I am saying that the closing of Iron Lore is a failure. It is easy to blame the whole world and all of these external factors. What about some personal responsibility?

with a game like COD4 on PC, is it not possible to restrict the game to just running on servers run by the developer? Is it bandwidth costs that mean they do not do this?
I don’t play any MMos now, but I’d happily pay £10 a month for COD 4, or my FPS of choice after that. I’d consider it a bargain, as I get a minimum of 30 hours a month for that.

Frankly its silly how little infinity ward charged me for that game.

You are nuts. Shall I pay a monthly fee for monopoly now?

I doubt it, as was said earlier it’s one thing to support mouse & keyboard, it’s another to be built around them. And do you honestly see full mouse support happening in a game supporting online play? Not a chance, at best you’ll be relegated to the special M&K room.

The PC, like the consoles, has a standard controller scheme which can be developed to, and that’s why we won’t see M&K on the consoles any time soon.

Once – just once – I’d like to read an internet forum discussion of a game where someone didn’t assert a Universal Truth about the quality of the game’s software engineering based on their personal experiences with one piece of software on one machine.


No listen very carefully.


It doesn’t make me nuts, it just means I know that if the cost of COD4 was a tenner a month, I’d happily pay it. Why is it just dandy to pay 10 a month for some tedious level grind on WoW, but nuts to pay 10 for an easy to pick up and play FPS against other people online. If a monthly fee meant less piracy and more money for the devs, then so much the better.
£0.30p an hour for entertainment is fucking good value. Do you only see movies if they cost £0.60p for a ticket?

Why is it just dandy to pay 10 a month for some tedious level grind on WoW, but nuts to pay 10 for an easy to pick up and play FPS against other people online.

Absolutely not saying you’re nuts, but IME, I (and I think a lot of others) play one and only one MMORPG at a time, and $15/m or what have you is OK for that. But I’m quite likely to play a lot of different FPS (eg, a bit of TF2, a bit of CS, a bit of whatever the FOTM is, and so on) in the same month. At that point we’re talking about quite a bit more money than I could reasonably justify.

Preach on, Sister!

well tbh the whole ‘flat fee per month’ thing has always been stupid. I think everyone would be better off if such games could charge you per hour (obviously a very low fee). Right now, the occasional WoW players who notch up maybe one hour a week are effecitvelt subsidising the guys who play 7 hours a day. Plus it means that having a ‘casual’ or ‘light’ experience in an MMo means you are effectively ripped off.
How about 50 cents an hour? or 30 cents?

I’d play WoW for a few hours to see what its like for a dollar or two. I certainly won’t buy a boxed game that has no demo just to see if it holds my interest beyond 1 hour.
And COD 4 should be raking in megabucks for the fact that they made a game that tens of thousands of people are still playing today, months after release.

Certainly true. I think, though, that one thing Cliffski might be getting at, or at least his posts suggest, is that the model of pay/play that we’re used to is no longer really viable. We are used to being able to play online shooters, for instance, for free, but that’s not a right or a natural law or anything. It’s an accident of the way the industry developed.

Why shouldn’t we have to pay, in an era of piracy, easily available bandwidth, and high development costs, for our online FPS fix? No one wants to pay for something that has heretofore been free, but the business model that sustained traditional PC games is, by everyone’s admission, changing. Perhaps–only perhaps, I don’t pretend to know the future–we’re entering a time when a lot that was free will now be more “pay as you go,” and a lot that was simply provided as a given will be optional, or extra cost.

So, though we’ve been used to playing a bit of this and a bit of that online, bouncing around from game to game, with no financial cost other than the purchase of the games themselves, we may have to get used to making more hard choices. Perhaps shooters will come with 30 days free online pay, and after that require a modest fee. Maybe just enough to support a validation system and insure legitimate paying customers–there’s no need for MMO-sized fees, necessarily.

I love PC gaming, though I have consoles and handhelds as well. I am not hard-core enough a console gamer to buy extra TVs (don’t even own an flat panel TV, just an older CRT HD Sony) to set up a console in my home office, where I play PC games. I hate playing games in the living room; I like being in my "man cave’ and I like not bugging my wife, who works in her office upstairs and actually occasionally uses the TV for something other than games. So I really, really want PC gaming to continue to offer me choices. But I do think the market is shifting to something much, much different than we’re used to.

Try a little imagination…

One thing you could do is provide those which play CoD4 seriously access to a new map(s) ahead of general community, provided they pay a fee. 10 GBP sounds pretty reasonable for one month of early access for a map pack of 1-3 maps to me. Serious players will play it. They may well get an advantage out of it (knowledge is power and not having to play with “skimmer” players) but it’s not a game breaking one. “Skimmers” and/or “casual” CoD4 players (those that are playing a bunch of FPS games simultaneously) won’t pay the fee, but that’s their choice and they’ll get it anyway.

The net result will be the game developer will pull in sufficient funds to at least offset the cost of development of the new content, the serious players get “good stuff”, and the “skimmer” players get everything eventually (even if a vast majority of them simply won’t care.) Not to mention, the anti-piracy advantage this provides…

While subscriptions may well equate MMORPG in some people’s mind - it’s really a question of providing value on a consistent cadence and giving people the chance to pay for it. If it turns out that they want to pay more & faster - let 'em! :) That said, online commerce is damn hard, the publishers have a role to play to make this possible, in combination with game developer creativity.


You could even go one better. Mod teams could get a cut of the action. Maybe it costs $0.10 an hour to play COD 4, and 25% of that will go either to the developer, or to the mod team that created the map. That’s a true incentive to make replayable, fun, modded, maps. think how much that ‘de_dust’* (might be wrong name) map would have earned for its creator?
If you have a system in place where you are billing people by the hour and connecting only to authorised servers, all the data exists to do that already.