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gilamran

Where are we heading?

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Hi guys, About a year ago I started to get into the 3D world.. My dream was to be a game developer... So I started writing a terrain editor, particle engine, I got into the HLSL, I read books and so on... Then one day I saw the Epic Unreal 3 engine demo, it broke my hart! It looked SOOOO good that I thought that I'll never get there by myself... And probably I'll never will... So writing my own game engine is not a good idea, and a game developer is not a game developer anymore, the graphic artists are now the "programmers" of the game... A question popped up... Where am I heading to? Will the future be that only EA, Sony, and Konami games are in the market? No small companies out there? Will I be employed by a BIG games company as a HLSL programmer, and calculate matrix all day long? What do you do? Where are you? I'd like to hear more opinions... Feel free to express yourselves. Gil

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I dont think you should feel that you have to compete with sony or ea to do something you love to do. The ppl that released the first unreal where a small company im sure. but I really woundnt mind working for any of them If i could work on textures or engine development all day long. Even still, Im building a 3d engine and my own meshes and my own textures just so I can say, check out what I did. I have no expectations of being able to own a game company or work for one (tho ild really like to), but I feel like Im included in the industry just by keeping it at the hobby level.

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It's often been remarked that in the future, the vast majority of game companies will choose to licence and modify an existing engine, rather than develop their own technology. However, most studios which don't develop first- or third-person shooters still develop their own specialized middleware, and I think that this will continue for the forseeable future. If you want to code at a relatively low level, there will still be jobs at the places which develop engines, like Epic, id Software and Crytek, in the future.

Graphics isn't everything, though. Gameplay is the most important part of a game, in most people's opinion. You can confirm this by asking yourself a simple question: can I still enjoy a game that isn't graphically amazing? My answer is yes. Have a search for a couple of games whch graphically illustrate this (pun intended [grin]): Uplink and Darwinia. I still play original CS, even though my new machine is capable of CS:Source.

By the way, when I see Unreal Engine 3 screenshots, they inspire me to work harder towards my goals.

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Indies will fan out to where the market is. Mobile devices, other computing platforms, etc.

I don't think I'll ever have a problem finding an audience.

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Also I have been haunted by the kind of thoughts you express in your post -- what is the point, I wondered? But there are things you should keep in mind: Novel ideas and artistry is more important than big money.

Alternative and independent games is where you should be headed. Just like films don't have to have a $100 million budget to be good, entertaining or touching, games can be very entertaining, educational, absorbing and very polished despite lack of photorealistic graphics or fenomenal sound.

Be creative, think different, go your own ways. That way you will really be someone.

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Quote:
Original post by gilamran
Then one day I saw the Epic Unreal 3 engine demo, it broke my hart! It looked SOOOO good that I thought that I'll never get there by myself...
And probably I'll never will...
That's okay. No individual will get there on their own. They had a small team for the first one, and quite a few people right now.
Quote:
Original post by gilamran
So writing my own game engine is not a good idea, and a game developer is not a game developer anymore, the graphic artists are now the "programmers" of the game...

That's a fairly broad statement. It depends on the "game engine" you want to come up with. The market for the Unreal-style engine shoot'em and hack'n'slash is well covered, and there are a lot of iso/tile engines available. There are a handful of quality RTS engines. There are even card-game engines that handle the placement of cards. But is that really all that games are? No!

There are more "game engines" that could be written, assuming that's your goal. Wikipedia's article about computer and video game genres lists 10 current major genres, five 'old' major genres, and 22 "notable" genres. Many of these have 'sub-genres', such as racing genre's kart games. Also, there are many hybrid games combining several others.

We've all seen kart games, but when did you last see a quality racing/kart game engine? Or maybe mods for existing racing/kart games? We've seen simulation games for airplanes and space, but when's the last time you've seen a simulation engine put to other uses? Maybe a rampage-style simulation where you sit safely inside your crane and knock down buildings for fun and profit, with real physics? Or what about engines that can make a game like the classic "Oregon Trail", only with a system that can entice kids of today to play and learn?

The point is, there's a lot more to games than making a full 3D dungeon with complete facial effects and particle systems to accurately depict a body being blown apart by a plasma rifle.
Quote:
Original post by gilamran
A question popped up... Where am I heading to?

Will the future be that only EA, Sony, and Konami games are in the market? No small companies out there?
Will I be employed by a BIG games company as a HLSL programmer, and calculate matrix all day long?

You can, if you want.

Let's pull in an analogue from another entertainment industry.
Quote:
Major studio expectations
Right now there are a few big movie studio publishing companies in the United States, each working with a number of smaller groups. (Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures [Columbia/TriStar, MGM, UA], NBC/Universal, Time/Warner [Warner Bros., New Line, HBO films], Disney [ Buena Vista, Walt Disney, Touchstone, Miramax]).

They make *BIG* productions. When you walk out of a movie your mind is still reeling.

You aren't likely to walk on to the lot at MGM and expect to get a starring role in an upcoming major movie, or a lead coming up with amazing FX, or a script writer. If you walk on the lot looking for a job, you might be lucky to be a tweener (a low-paid artistic grunt), or a technician running cables for the gaffers since you know so much about computers, or maybe even get a credit as "sports fanatic #74".

The minor companies involved get contracts carefully written to be something like "5% of all box-office profits", and the company spouts out that they spent billions making and marketing the film, but only made half of it back in box office receipts. So the smaller businesses only get their completion fees. Then the major company goes in and sells it on cable, pay-per-view, video stores, rentals, and TV broadcasts across the globe, pocketing tons of money behind the scenes.

In games, you get the major publishers working with individual studios. The big publishers like EA and SCEA are out there. The individual game companies work with, but independantly from, those major publishers. These are the people you'll find actually offerning jobs in the industry.

When you buy these games, they have been hyped long before their actual release. You play them for days and weeks, and tell everybody you meet about them. They are impressive.

If you get a job at one of these copmanies, don't expect to be a major team member on day one. Expect to be a code grunt where you incrementally improve the pixel-pushing pipeline moderately safe environment doing support work, while the 'stars' in the company do the core work.

The small studios don't make a ton of money (often they get a razor-thin margin that is just enough to stay in business), but the publishers are well-funded and able to give out multi-million dollar advances to the small studios. I'll leave the source of the money to your imagination.

If that appeals to you, then do it. If it doesn't sound fun, then don't.

There is another alternative...
Quote:
Indie expectations
There are thousands of indie movie makers in the United States. Their biggest productions are usually smaller than the DVD commentary from the major studios. Their biggest stars are often less-known than the quality extras in the majors. They are increasingly distributed on the Internet at low or no cost, or at least get marketed that way through word-of-mouth. They don't make a big profit, and probably get a loss. They might be able to convince a few local shops to cary it as a rental or sell it on the shelves, but probably not. Unless you get some bizzare film like "Napoleon Dynamite" that makes a fortune and gets promoted by the major studio.

The people involved get to do everything, and they feel ownership in the createive work. In the end, it is a small project and a work of love.

There are thousands of indie game makers as well. Most have no budget except what their parents give them, what they make at mcdonalds, or what they can convince their spouse to let them take from the family budget and time away from the kids. They probably won't make a profit and will also likely be advertized by word-of-mouth. They might be able to convince a store to stock them, but don't count on it. Unless you get lucky, make a mod to a game, discover that it has spread across the globe and the owner wants to re-release their game with your Counter Strike mod.

Again, the people involved get to do everything, and feel the ownership and the whole 'work of love' concept.

If that appeals to you, then do it.
If it doesn't sound fun, then don't.

Those are pretty much the options when it comes to game development.

Your own individual work is not going to compete with the Unreal engine. But would you really want it to?
Quote:
Original post by gilamran
What do you do? Where are you?
I hated being a grunt, so I left the studio.

I am now a lead developer making internal business software for a small company. I'm basically happy with my job, although I still have bad days and occasionally fight with the boss or other coworkers. I know my position is secure, since both the boss and I want the company to last. I work regular hours. I have almost no stress in development, and no real deadlines. There is no such thing as a shipping date. A release consists of emailing a few people and telling people around the office, then incrementing the version numbers in the .net assemblies. It is nice.

I also started my own company and sell child edutainment games for PocketPC. (If you are currently teaching your kid how to form the alphabet letters, look up sillyscribbles.com.) I have other software that I've released on the PC at other sites, mostly kid-targeted since I write it for my daughters.
Quote:
Original post by gilamran
I'd like to hear more opinions...
Do what you enjoy.

When on their deathbed, people don't say "I wish I spent more time at work", or "I wish I had written a better game engine, let me tell you how to tweak the paramter." They say "I wish I spent more time with my family" and "I wasted so much time being miserable, I'm glad I finally decided to do what I enjoy."

If you aren't happy (I mean true joy, not fleeting highs) no amount of money or fame can change it.

If you don't think you can find joy in being "employed by a BIG games company as a HLSL programmer, and calculate matrix all day long", then don't do it. If it will bring you joy, then take your passion to it.

Only you can answer your question, so I'll ask it back.

Do you like what you are doing? Where are you heading to?

Ask it of yourself often (several times each year, at least), and take the time to honestly answer it. You might be surprised by the answers.

frob.

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I honestly think that with the advent of free tools/engines like Ogre, Audacity, GIMP, etc there are bound to be more independent game developers. Sure it's hard work but it's always been.

No one ever said making computer games was easy. If you don't want to put in the hard work to be able to do the stuff Epic, etc want to do, then of course you don't stand a chance. All of this stuff is available to amateur developers, it's either on the net or published in books soon after games are released. Example: Doom 3 style shadows and lighting are easily found on the net and in books.

Artists make a game pretty but you can't replace a good programmer. There's no game without a programmer. They haven't written "DirectGameplay" yet so it's up to the programmer to write up a scripting engine, AI and more. There's plenty of jobs left for programmers. We are far from being redundant.

Besides, all those guys in Epic, Id, etc worked their way up the ladder over a long period of time. Of course they are going to produce more impressive games, they've got more experience.

I don't know about you but I'll sure as hell compete with them. They won't know what's hit 'em until it's too late. :)

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As independent developers it's best to focus on gameplay over graphics. Your biggest advantage is that you don't need to reach a massive audience just to break even. This leaves you free to work on projects that you enjoy and target niche markets.

There's a good chance that nobody is going to be interested in a generic online FPS that you build, because it's most likely going to look and run worse than a major commercial game. That's fine. The market is already saturated with games exactly like that - there's no need for you to build yet another one. Focus on building games that haven't been done before (or often) because no huge market exists for them. Make unique games and you'll find an audience.

It's also important to realize that 3d isn't everything. Search around for some screenshots of Weird Worlds, the upcoming sequel for Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. It's all 2d (it doesn't even appear to have any flashy effects), but it looks incredible. I also have no doubt that it's probably going to be a great game. More importantly, the original was a really unique game and that made it special. Use 3d when it's appropriate, 2d otherwise, and focus on gameplay over graphics.

As for where to go - if you're looking for a job working in the industry you're inevitably going to be doing grunt work. If working with HLSL is what you want to do, then that's what you'll do, but regardless you can expect to almost certainly be specialized into one or a small number of jobs. That's just the way it works with teams. I guess part of the advantage of doing things on your own is that you get to avoid those limitations.

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