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Designing a game for game developers, not gamers!??? The death of games.

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As weird as the title might seem, that's currently the way I see it in the game developing community. It seems that game developers now-days are only willing to develop 'AAA' 3D multi-player type games. Why has this become a problem for me? As an indie programmer I have one of 3 possible choices: Either design and program a simple 2D game by myself, design and program a more complex 2D game and recruit people to help out or join a team working on a project. But then again, I can immediately wipe out 2 of the choices: Recruiting people and joining a team. Why would this not be possible? In order to recruit members I'd need a project that would attract them. This means I need to design a project that'd both excite game developers and gamers - as they are eventually the customers that'll play the game. This is clearly an impossible task because there is no congruence between what the gamer and the developer want in a game. What do developers want in a game? Usually what they find in hits such as World Of Warcraft or Unreal. "Everyone likes those games, let's make one too." Eventually, what happens is we end up with 500 different unfinished projects, each trying to imitate Unreal or World Of Warcraft. Sure, these games are world-wide hits - and your game, it's cool, but would a World of Warcraft fan rather play your 3D MMORPG world when he can play a 100 Million dollar budget game like World of Warcraft? Those genres are dead! A decent article about this. There may be a couple of indie teams with nice looking MMORPG titles - these hard working teams of talented individuals are developing a game for their resume, because there is no way their game will compete with million dollar budget companies. There are extreme cases in which these happens but the examples are rare. On the other hand, it is very possible for these skilled people to create a high quality 2D game. A game that gamers would actually like to play, hence pay for. For example, the game Chicken Invaders II shouldn't not be that hard to create and still it has a better market than any indie 3D MMORPG [leave out the extreme cases]. Obviously it could have been made more complex but still, it's a great game. Other examples are the Super Mario series, Worms II, Raptor - those are all high quality 2D games. But anyone capable of designing such games will want to take their skills to the limit -> 3D online games that imitate the "AAA" titles. The only reason to be indie-developing such complex 3D games is if you want to get into the industry, this game being your resume and training, so Blizzard or some other M $ budget company hires you. In this case, you should clear up a few years of time for your game knowing this is a step in your career. But for us hobbyist programmers, is this the right path? The only reason I brought this topic up is because I am on the verge of giving up on the 2 choices I have mentioned earlier. Joining a team or recruiting is impossible when all good game developers take this 'AAA' title approach. I do have plans [and a lot of code/design document] for a decent unique 2D game that'd probably be a success, it wouldn't go pale next to the 'AAA' games because it's in a different gaming market. The problem being that by myself this will no longer be a hobby, it'd consume all of my spare time and I'd have to give up my current job, family, friends, etc... If I don't want that, I'm left with option number one: Design a simple game by myself. A quality 2D game with a very small amount of features. Another similar remake of classic games instead of a serious upgrade of a classic that I could be making in a team. Is there still hope for high quality 2D teams? I'd like you all to share your thoughts and experiences, as I will be basing some of my decisions on them.

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Casual and mobile games are doing very well. Check out popcap, gamezebo, big fish games, mumbo jumbo, etc. There are several good 2d games on the Nintendo DS - I've played dozens of hours of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.

Developers these days tend to make what publishers and investors tell them to make. If you want to pull off something of your own, you either have to have lots of cash (Blizzard, Valve), lots of free time (Project Offset), or you have to have a track record (i.e. clout).

Quote:

What do developers want in a game? Usually what they find in hits such as World Of Warcraft or Unreal. "Everyone likes those games, let's make one too."

No, that's what the people who pay developers want. They want to cash in on WoW's success. Many game developers want to make good original games, not sequels and me-toos. Paying the bills comes first, especially for large companies full of people who have families to take care of.

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The only reason to be indie-developing such complex 3D games is if you want to get into the industry, this game being your resume and training, so Blizzard or some other M $ budget company hires you.

Any kind of game will get you hired as long as it's well-done. It doesn't matter if it's 3d or not. In fact, when I see a resume and code samples that revolve completely around 3d graphics I roll my eyes and move on because only a very small section of working programmers actually work on that stuff day-to-day. And it isn't the new guy. Demonstrating a complete 2d game will get you much farther than demonstrating a pretty renderer IMHO.

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Original post by Jaymar
Casual and mobile games are doing very well. Check out popcap, gamezebo, big fish games, mumbo jumbo, etc. There are several good 2d games on the Nintendo DS - I've played dozens of hours of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.


Yes, that was my point in the first place.
While these are doing great, the gamedev.net community seems overly focues on 3D and 'AAA' titles.
It seems that the only people capable of creating quality 2D games are deep in 3D projects that are way over their heads. [Not all, but the vast majority]

Quote:

Developers these days tend to make what publishers and investors tell them to make. If you want to pull off something of your own, you either have to have lots of cash (Blizzard, Valve), lots of free time (Project Offset), or you have to have a track record (i.e. clout).


Developers in the industry make what publishers want, but for some reason most of the gamedev indie community is going towards that direction with 0 budget projects.


Quote:

Any kind of game will get you hired as long as it's well-done. It doesn't matter if it's 3d or not. In fact, when I see a resume and code samples that revolve completely around 3d graphics I roll my eyes and move on because only a very small section of working programmers actually work on that stuff day-to-day. And it isn't the new guy. Demonstrating a complete 2d game will get you much farther than demonstrating a pretty renderer IMHO.


Once again, I believe you that this may be true, but it is far from what you see in the gamedev.net forums.

Thanks for the input, you made some very good points, but my main question still remains unanswered and it seems that quality 2D games will not rise from the gamedev.net forums - at least not team effort ones.

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Thanks for the input, you made some very good points, but my main question still remains unanswered and it seems that quality 2D games will not rise from the gamedev.net forums - at least not team effort ones.


Ah, yea, I see your point also. I agree, a lot of bedroom developers that want to "go pro" tend to bite off more than they can chew. Or they just work on what entertains them, which, for a programmer, can easily be too narrow (rendering) or too ambitious (MMO). I think part of it comes from the "I can do that better" feeling that some people get when they see games like WoW. It's easy to find flaws and think of ways to fix them, but it's also easy to loose sight of the fact that those little nits are very minor.

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Original post by Jaymar
Ah, yea, I see your point also. I agree, a lot of bedroom developers that want to "go pro" tend to bite off more than they can chew. Or they just work on what entertains them, which, for a programmer, can easily be too narrow (rendering) or too ambitious (MMO). I think part of it comes from the "I can do that better" feeling that some people get when they see games like WoW. It's easy to find flaws and think of ways to fix them, but it's also easy to loose sight of the fact that those little nits are very minor.


So very true.
In some cases fixing the flaws would make the game superior but before that can be fixed, there is the 100 M dollar budget game that needs to be created first.

I'll give simple small games a shot and see where that leads me.

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Just my 2$
I was part of a fee UO sever before really getting into programming, even if u got the game for a MMO and the programmers/devs the community is another problem.

as for going PRO and 3d games, i know im never gona go pro but 2D games dont really interest me a whole bunch and thats why im looking (in the long run) to do a 3d project, although i may do a small (very small) 2d project whilst i build my skills up.
but knowing ill never go pro never get a team big enough my 3d project will be a small one that can expand.

hmm that was really about me wasnt it...
ok really what i was getting at is maybe the indie developers need to look at expandable projects or just realise the limitations

also i guess if u got somthing to show people will be more likly to join a project

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If you want to write a game that qualified people don't want to volunteer to write, you have to convince them.

One way of convincing them is to pay them money. If a project takes 2000 man hours by a programmer qualified to make 50$/hour, that's a 100,000$ project -- plus overhead.

...

If you are aiming at a project that takes more effort than you can collect interest for, you are doing the same mistake as the MMORPG wannabees, just on a smaller scale.

...

Start out with your small game, get it released. Openly ask for help on it, and see if you can find other people who like helping. Once you have the social connections to other developers, organizing larger projects might be feasible.

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Original post by NotAYakk
If you want to write a game that qualified people don't want to volunteer to write, you have to convince them.


You're right, I should probably release a small demo first, as well as to show I am capable of programming a game.

Quote:

If you are aiming at a project that takes more effort than you can collect interest for, you are doing the same mistake as the MMORPG wannabees, just on a smaller scale.


That's generally the same mistake. Only the typcial MMORPG team couldn't do better with 300 members where I need 1 to 2 more.
But still, I guess I need something more concrete to attract more attention.

Quote:

Start out with your small game, get it released. Openly ask for help on it, and see if you can find other people who like helping. Once you have the social connections to other developers, organizing larger projects might be feasible.


I'll take your advice by cutting many of the features in my current game, this way I can handle it on my own on a reasonable time schedule.
The omitted features will only be included in the design document as optional if I have a helping hand.
There probably are some quality and reasonable game developers out there, as for finding them, I'll have to scan under the piles of MMORPG.

Thanks for the support,
Ori

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I've been working on making on an MMO, just as a learning experience for 3 years. Once you find those hundreds of original ideas that are so awesome to you then your set. Also run the ideas past your friends. No reason to waste time programming if the game you think is fun will fail to what other people think is fun.

Also the reason for AAA games is because of the notion that if playing a really fun game by yourself works then an MMO version would be just as good. Which can be be true for original ideas, but from what I've seen unoriginal games fall apart.

As an indie programmer I'd say strive to learn as much as you can and learn everything possible and create a master piece game that shows your skill in programming. For an MMO to get team members from what I've seen all you need is to get a client and server program set up and working perfectly and you can pull people in to help. :)

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if its that big a problem than just make it yourself, with the correct middleware, resource packages and tools a farily complete 2d game should be doable for one person

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My last game (Rumble Box) was a 3D game, but so arcade-like that it might as well have been an early '80s stand-up cabinet (a really powerful cabinet).

Now, I'm back to 2D because that's what works best for my new project. Sure, the newbie "IMM GONNA MAKE TEH BEST MMO EVAR!" crowd are shooting for AAA level online masterpieces (and 99.9% of the time will not finish), but there are plenty of us that know our limits and thrive on it.

Game developers ARE gamers, that's why we make them in the first place. It seems your issue is more designing games for publishers, the marketing guys who are just looking at the bottom line. Many of them are not gamers, and that is why we get Tomb Raider 67 and Quake 814030/0==NaN

Long live 2D!

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I wouldn't take the gamedev community as an indication of what the indie game development scene is up to. A vast majority of the posts on gamedev are over ambitious newbies who sorry to say have little chance of actually making a game, much less these huge scoped games they tend to gravitate toward. To make matters worse these posts often end up staying alive with many replies. I'd wager there are very few true 'indie' developers on these boards producing commercially capable games. Theres alot of people with their own ideas for a dream game, most without the capability to pull it off. We all have what we think are ideas for awesome games, some just don't have the experience to know whats achievable at their skill level though.

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[quote]Original post by DrEvil
I wouldn't take the gamedev community as an indication of what the indie game development scene is up to.[quote]

That was probably my mistake all along then.
I was posting my Help Wanted Ads in the wrong place.
Thanks everyone, hope is back to keep the wheels of development turning!

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The way I see it is that people want to make the games they like. Most games now are FPS or MMORPG's so thats what people want to make. When i got into gamedev i loved platformers so thats what I tried to make. It wasn't that I was more interested in 2D as a whole or anything but because thats what I liked to play so thats what I wanted to write.

But after a while it changed. While building games is fun you'll find that after a while games become about content creation. I can build you a 2D grid based platformer engine in a weekend if you really want, but then to make it a finished game I'll have to spend 2 months making all the levels, art/animations, balancing the game dynamics and so on. The challenge with such things is not the code itself, but making the GAME. And as a programmer thats not really what I find fun. I do indie dev for fun! People who like making levels and creating content becomes artists or designers - programmers usually (generalisation warning!) don't really like that stuff as much.

So from my POV if you make a 2D game - you can spend a week writing the engine then your fun is over and its all boring stuff. However if I try to make a 3D game I can spend months and years putting in HDR lighting, water effects without ever having to bother about level design or lack of art. I'd much rather tinker with my cool 3D effects than create content. And gamedev.net is mostly about programming. And as programmers thats mostly what we find fun - coding. If we go 2D platformer its all about content, if we go 3D we can code all we want and never run out of things todo. We will probably never finish the game but for most hobbiests thats not actually the goal, its just a side effect of wanting to code something cool :P

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Quote:
Original post by kaysik
While building games is fun you'll find that after a while games become about content creation. I can build you a 2D grid based platformer engine in a weekend if you really want, but then to make it a finished game I'll have to spend 2 months making all the levels, art/animations, balancing the game dynamics and so on. The challenge with such things is not the code itself, but making the GAME. And as a programmer thats not really what I find fun. I do indie dev for fun! People who like making levels and creating content becomes artists or designers - programmers usually (generalisation warning!) don't really like that stuff as much.


Yeah, I kind of agree with you. People that are "pure" programmers at heart likely aren't the best at design or content creation. And vice versa.

Myself, I love content and creation. I learned to program to make my dream game. Luckily, I also very logical/left brained and I'm a competent coder (if I don't do anything too complex). I'm also not an artist.

To make up for my lack of experience/natural ability (or love for number crunching/art) I will hire people that are experts. I have used Rent a Coder (http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder) to help out with some programming tasks (mainly network code) and an artist for the majority of my artwork.

Luckily I have a lot of skill in managing large amounts of information, organization, and putting everything together to make a game. And I also know how to research, how to limit scope (without limiting depth or gameplay), and how to work with the skills I do have.

I guess my point is that we all have skills and if you have a passion for something you need to see how your skills fit into that passion. If I was someone like Kaysik I might try to find someone who loved creating content and form a partnership.

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[quote]Original post by origil
[quote]Original post by DrEvil
I wouldn't take the gamedev community as an indication of what the indie game development scene is up to.
Quote:


That was probably my mistake all along then.
I was posting my Help Wanted Ads in the wrong place.
Thanks everyone, hope is back to keep the wheels of development turning!


Check out http://forums.indiegamer.com/ for people who are serious indie developers.

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Original post by Pluvious
If I was someone like Kaysik I might try to find someone who loved creating content and form a partnership.


hahah thats exactly what I've been thinking recently. I've got 3 games that are completely finished except for the content - a scrolling shooter, a 3D 3rd person shooter, and 2D platformer (but in a 3D enviroment). Also a couple of other things that are half done and could be easily finished if needed. I should try to find someone who's into content creation because its all setup and waiting to go (even wrote a level editor and entity scripting system and everything).

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Original post by kaysikSo from my POV if you make a 2D game - you can spend a week writing the engine then your fun is over and its all boring stuff. However if I try to make a 3D game I can spend months and years putting in HDR lighting, water effects without ever having to bother about level design or lack of art. I'd much rather tinker with my cool 3D effects than create content. And gamedev.net is mostly about programming. And as programmers thats mostly what we find fun - coding. If we go 2D platformer its all about content, if we go 3D we can code all we want and never run out of things todo. We will probably never finish the game but for most hobbiests thats not actually the goal, its just a side effect of wanting to code something cool :P

You can speak for all of us programmers that when making a game, in the end the gameplay is not important, it's all the pretty particle systems and shiny shader effects that make it fun.

Or, you know, some of us programmers still enjoy making games and not tech demos. :) (I kid, I kid)

I agree that you will find only one portion of the indie game community here, another very different portion at www.garagegames.com. GG is focused more on commercial indies, while GameDev is much more hobbyists. But I've found that the gamedev forumers are much more helpful, and interesting.

And much more willing to pick fights, and talk about religion, or pooping, or squirrels having sex. It's a very interesting place. Oh yeah, don't forget the bit about peeing in the shower. Classic.

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Despite some of your cynicism, I would have to agree that in BOTH the indie and commercial development scene that games these days are being created based on what developers are interested in or what their publishers "think" gamers are interested in. As someone who works professionally on commercial games I can say that only about 2 out of the 6 games that I've worked on so far actually interest me. Although game developers are gamers too, they tend to aggregate toward the most current trends in the industry.

However, I don't see the division in creativity of game design deriving from the technical differences between 2d and 3d games as you've argued. The type of innovative and non FPS/MMO projects that you're looking for could be developed in the 3d medium just as easily as the 2d medium, but developers choose to ignore this possibility.

For example, there are very few adventure games similar to Zelda, and even fewer 3d platformer or action puzzle games like Mario and Bomberman. True the 2d medium is widely being ignored, but there are still intersting possibilities in the realm of 3d as well. Some of my all-time favorite games are in the 2d format, but I think the 3d format has equal potential for generating classic, intuitive, and fun games that appeal to a large audience of gamers.

I loved Super Mario, Contra, Base Wars, Sim City, Double Dragon, Zelda, F-Zero, Rock N Roll Racing, Uniracers, Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, Final Fantasy 3, Chrono Trigger, and many other classic 2d games. Still, there is an equal number of games that I enjoy in the 3d medium so I don't think that the problem is necessarily inherent in the format. At least not on the software side.

To a certain degree the main difference between 2d and 3d games is the input devices used and the way the player interacts with the game. Actually I should rephrase this. The problem is that "there is no difference" between the input devices used for 2d and 3d games, when there should be. Obviously a 2d game requires less sophisticated input than a 3d game because of it's limited dimensions. On the surface this makes 2d games seem more intuitive and accessible.

Even though we are more familiar with a 3d world, when we are introduced to a 3d world in the format of a game our methods of interaction drastically deviate from what we're used to and the input devices that work well for the 2d format become inadequate and clunky when attempting to play in a 3d world. I think this issue has been realized though and hope that efforts to address it will arise in the coming years. I think Nintendo has already taken a significant step in this direction with the introduction of their new controller for the Wii. From a visual technological perspective, the Wii falls far behind the PS3 and XBox 360, but from a user interface side I believe that it's leaps and bounds ahead. I guess we'll find out when it's released.

As to your other concern regarding finding the right type of talent to work on non FPS/MMO games, I would also have to agree. Most people want to be part of the next massive blockbuster game, and many believe that the best way to do that is to stick to proven genres and game-types but with their own spin. On the other hand, those that may be interested in the smaller but more unique projects may not be in the position to work on them in their free time if they are also already in the industry.

I think I would enjoy working on a simple but innovative 2d or 3d game that's not attempting to be the next AAA giant, but that would mean making sacrifices. I can either spend an extra 10 hours a week working on a side project I enjoy or I can take that time and pick up some extra assets at my work and make an additional $1000-1500 more for the month. As much as I would like to do the former, necessity demands that I do the latter, at least until my wife graduates and gets a job.

Just my thoughts.

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Quote:
Original post by kaysik
programmers usually (generalisation warning!) don't really like that stuff as much.

It's a good thing you put the generalisation warning because as you can see the gamedev.net site is a lot more than 'pure programming'.
It's about "Game Programming". That's a big difference.
However, your point of view does reflect the majority of the gamedev.net community's thoughts. Most people here like programming engines - not the artistic side that seperates an engine from a game.
The 'art' where you get the player acceleration just right, you let the player make fun decisions, give him the feeling he is in control, make him want more, etc... What you are doing is not game programming, it may be loads of fun and there is no need for me saying that you're entitled to [It's obvious].
My original question was simple: Where did the Game programmers run off to? Has gamedev.net become 3DEngine.net?

WorldPlanter, I agree that 3D games can achieve just as much playability as 2D games, but the phenomenon I see here is 3D engine-mania.
But complaining about people enjoying the creation of 3D engine is not what I'm doing here - it's also a part of game programming. As I've already said it's the other parts I find missing in this community that are troubling me.

Quote:
Original post by WorldPlanter
I think I would enjoy working on a simple but innovative 2d or 3d game that's not attempting to be the next AAA giant, but that would mean making sacrifices. I can either spend an extra 10 hours a week working on a side project I enjoy or I can take that time and pick up some extra assets at my work and make an additional $1000-1500 more for the month. As much as I would like to do the former, necessity demands that I do the latter, at least until my wife graduates and gets a job.


Sure, but attempting to be the next AAA giant for 99.9% of the programmers on gamedev.net is a failure from the begining, so there is no difference between this and a 2D game that would not have to compete with an AAA comany like Blizzard, therefore succeed.

This thread has been pretty much stretched to its limits revolving around the fact I've chosen the wrong community for finding a helping hand for my game.
This site has suited each of my other game programming needs so far with its rich articles and great forums - people do have good answers to problems and are always willing to give advice but that's as far as theory goes.
And Pluvious, thanks for the site, I'll definitely give it a look.

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I didn't have a lot of time to read through all the replies, but I just wanted to add something.

I was more active here a few years ago, and now that I'm back again, I've noticed a whole lot more talk about 2D (mostly to do with physics engines and such though) games than back then.

Which makes me kinda jealous, because I like 2D games and one of the bigger projects I'm working on is 2D. My next main goal is to write a fully featured 2D game engine with a great physics system and such... Instead of the usual '3D MMORPG.' :P But that's just me. I like 3D too, but 2D is too awesome to miss out on.

Edit: On another note, I that that article was a very good read.

[Edited by - shurcool on September 28, 2006 11:14:46 PM]

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Heh, I accidently posted this in the Oblivion thread. Talk about being lost.

I think there's a vital difference between a lot of work and the complexity of that work. A one-man freakshow polymath can keep up in terms of complexity. The amount of work needed to put things into use is where a loner suffers.

It might take a large team of programmers less time to write an advanced physics engine, but not enough to use that as an excuse. An advanced phsyics engine is about intelligence, not workload. If you can muster the skills, you can pretty much keep up with the big guys. But designing or building 500 complex and interesting characters / cars / levels / weapons is another story. That's where we have no choice but to get left behind.

I would personally categorize the number of features in a game as complexity. That means I think that the number of people working on a game doesn't directly relate to the number of cool features it has. But many game features can require a lot of art assets and other elements that end up generating more work than one developer can handle within a decent amount of time. My advice would be to know how long each and every one of those roads are before you ever set foot on them.

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The real issue today is that games are about to change once again.
Developers don't make games for developers, they mainly do games for gamers, and that is because the publisher likes big budget games with high revenue possibility.
One thing The Sims and even World of Warcraft thought us though, is that the market for non-gamers is way bigger than the market we used to produce for (not saying that those were low budget games!).

Another issue was and still is that nice pictures make nice advertisments and that catches a lot of audience, and with the so beloved high budget games you need big sale numbers. This is the reason games were pushed dramastically on the technical side, mainly graphics (graphic card manufacturers had a share in this).

We are about to hit photorealism in game graphics by now, so there won't be such a high rate of improvement anymore for a while.
And when most games look "perfect" you'll need something else to stand apart from the others, this will be imho gameplay probably fueled by advanced ai.

So I don't see it that "black" like some others, games won't die, the dinosaurs will, but a new breed will produce the next generation titles and we might even slip into another "golden age of games" soon. (This includes golden age for indie developers aswell, I think)

[Edited by - kiome on September 30, 2006 8:57:43 PM]

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You might want to take a look at what Greg Costikyan is doing at manifestogames.com

He is a game designer turned online publisher, because he was unhappy with the staleness of the game industry. Indie gaming is his name and he writes about it at costik.com/weblog

I'm sure that you'll find both these links enlightening.

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