Here Be Links
“Pricing: the key to not destroying everyone’s career” - Steven Bonner
If you’re young and a recent graduate, it’s pretty likely that you might still live at home and don’t really have a good grasp of what it takes to pay bills and probably don’t have too many regular outgoings that need to be met, so there’s a temptation to accept any offer of work without negotiating so you can get a foot in the door, build a client list, gain credibility and whatever else you think might push you to the top. This is probably ok for a while and most of us did it at some point, but sooner or later you will become frustrated when you can’t seem to raise your prices while your friends are out living it up, or worse, you’ll believe that this is what all illustrators should be getting paid and accept it.
“Emergent gameplay vs whatever the other kind is” - Andrew Plotkin
The work of solving these puzzles -- the play experience -- is of experimentation, discovery, and then synthesis of the results in a way which was not immediately obvious. That's creative thought. Dismissing this as "square key in square hole" is ignoring the point.
“Indie Advice: why you probably shouldn’t make a multiplayer game” - Dan Marshall
I don’t want to be completely negative, I just think as indies we need to be aware that the numbers TitanFall sells in order to be a constantly-playable online game eclipses anything we could possibly hope to achieve. It’s a case of being very very boringly realistic.
LONG “A Tale of Two Hipsters” - Dale Beran
The same thing is happening in Baltimore, where I currently live, and probably in many other cities all over the world. About ten or fifteen years ago, my generation moved into a crumbling warehouse district in another blighted area of Baltimore City. The DIY artist warehouse district is now labelled “The Arts & Entertainment District”, housing prices are on the rise and everywhere there are signs advertising “elegant urban living” and “artists luxury lofts” to people who are obviously not artists but rather middle class professionals.
“The Deleted Scenes of Outcast and Outcast 2...” - Joe Martin
For the team, Infogrames’ self-sabotage immediately impacted plans for the future. A previously announced Dreamcast version was cancelled and, while Infogrames’ claimed it was due to porting difficulties; the reality was that poor sales had crushed publisher confidence.
FAV LONG “Dude, Where's My Game - The Truth and Lies of Delays and Cancellations” - Odious Repeater
The Dead End (or DE for short) is one of the biggest issues plaguing game development to this day. For various bad reasons, it’s also one of the least understood and least discussed problems. One reason is that there are different types of Dead End that need to be avoided in different ways, by different members of the development staff.
“Pop Goes The Weasel” - Rob Fearon
It’s never really the end of a golden age. It’s just progress and as we progress, new people come along and get their chance to shine. It’s not harder, it’s not tougher. The market does not fill with videogames and we are not all doomed. It’s different. Because it has to be or we stagnate and if we stagnate, what’s the fucking point? You don’t get to keep the crown forever, no-one does. Move over, old man.
Here Be Links
OLD “RPS Exclusive: Gabe Newell Interview” - John Walker
The worst days [for game development] were the cartridge days for the NES. It was a huge risk – you had all this money tied up in silicon in a warehouse somewhere, and so you’d be conservative in the decisions you felt you could make, very conservative in the IPs you signed, your art direction would not change, and so on. Now it’s the opposite extreme: we can put something up on Steam, deliver it to people all around the world, make changes. We can take more interesting risks.
“Selling candy to babies” - Rich Stanton
“The F2P space for kids is unfortunately a highly predatory one,” says Jeffery. “There are a lot of developers doing things they must know and feel are not the right things to do. It is predatory, and it is lucrative. We make six apps a year. Companies like TabTale make 200. It’s a machine, a freemium converting machine.”
LONG “Games By Design: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)” - Chris Park
That AI War can gross more than a million dollars (and growing) while serving that sort of niche -- and have players happy about the prices they've paid, and not grumbling about it as they do with certain $80+ titles that I can think of -- is quite something. It shows that there is a lot more life in the "small spaces" that the big AAA publishers are ignoring. And it's something that I think should be a hopeful sign to players who love various "dead" genres. Most "dead" genres could provide this level of developer income and this level of player happiness for the right game sold the right way, I'm convinced.
“Positional Balance” - Matt Pavlovich
Positional balance is a relatively new notion in game design, and it seeks to lessen the possibility of a runaway leader and keep players engaged through the duration of a game, even ones nominally at the “back of the pack.” The primary concerns of positional balance are addressing the runaway leader problem and implementing catch-up mechanics.
“Repeating History: N++ And The Case For Conservative Game Design” - Michael Thomsen
“It’s actually pretty shocking how lucky we are to live here,” Burns said. “From attending our first GDC when N was in the Independent Games Festival, to securing the loan to make N+, to help with financing N++, we would be in a vastly different position today were it not for government support of small businesses. Without this support, we probably could have still made the games, however we would have had to cede control of them — as well as the majority of the royalties — to a publisher.”
“How Long Does It Take to Make an Indie Game?” - Joseph Mirabello
Also, looking back, here’s a tidbit I learned about myself during prototyping: feeling overwhelmed leads to demotivation. Demotivation leads to stagnation/distraction/facebook. Working mostly in solitude makes this worse: the sense of a shared investment that comes from teamwork is replaced with an echo-chamber of doubt. Devising strategies to combat self doubt, therefore, became a crucial part of development (maybe that’s worth a blog of its own someday).
VID “Music Object, Substance, Organism” - David Kanaga
Liquid is of special interest being at the edge of chaos, as it were. It is between stillness and chaos. More or less viscous. Besides, we are inside of music. It is not in front of us, like a picture, going away if we turn around or close our eyes. No, music is like a bath. We have to dry off after to get away from it.
This week's Link Drag discusses Depths of Fear :: Knossos, ethical problems in self-driving cars, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Lost Alpha, what the economist for EVE actually does and a little more.
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Some news! I've decided Link Drag is going to be more regular. I'm hoping weekly, but we'll see. However, I've decided to stop publishing Marginalia as that sucked up resources out of proportion with its audience.
I'm officially back from sabbatical next week but, until then, if you're new around here, why don't you give The Aspiration a read? It's one of the best things I ever wrote, you know.
And if that's not good enough then how about the seven links below?
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Last time there were twelve links. This time, merely a dozen. In this episode: thoughts on the first-person screamer, the blurring of casual and hardcore, Facebook makes a play for the next big space, and does art need to have a point?
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Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange, Ben Serviss, Raph Koster, Tale of Tales and Miguel Sicart.
In this edition: the mundanity of excellence, violence as narrative, and the price of secrecy in game development.
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Twelve links shall rule them all. In this episode: Ellen Page is gay, Rich Stanton loves Revengeance, droqen pells his hoggam, an economist tells you that Eve tells you nothing about economics and why isn't everyone watching The Smash Brothers already?
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Okay, I killed it last year. But it's back with a simpler format. Instead of doing painstaking write-ups for each link, I'm sticking to Name - Author - Quote. Click if you want, click if you don't want. I'm also not going to structure the links at all - the old Sideways links are now mixed in with all the game ones. The upside is that it's easier for me to knock these out.
In this episode: Stuart Campbell moans about digital distribution (a man after my own heart). Pippin Barr finds Thomas Was Alone dreadfully dull. Joe Martin has the skinny on the original Deus Ex design document.
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It’s the last Electron Dance post of 2013, so it is time to take stock of what I wrote and what you didn’t read, you stupid filthy dingbats. And did you know Electron Dance was on the Sunday Papers nine times this year? I know, poor show!
Also revealed: the top ten posts. Everybody likes Top Ten posts, right?
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Shiodome Station, Christmas 2003
Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange, Ben Serviss and Raph Koster.
In this Christmas edition: why we should embrace luck, why some people like Beyond: Two Souls and how the Jump Point Search algorithm works.
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