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SaNcT17

A Horrible Industry

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Or maybe its just me. I've been doing research on the video game industry for a while now and I'm trying to force myself out of the thought that the industry is a horrible place to work unless you're a talented indie developer making big hits for multiple platforms. I say this because of many things. I get discouraged when I see the majority of games on the shelf of a retailer like gamestop being outshined by games like Modern Warfare, Assasin's Creed, Halo and so on. Many games made on long tired hours by talented individuals stay out of the public eye and dont make much of a profit. Also the cost of making games today, is very discouraging because everything comes down to a decision and a huge budget. Its seems as though creativity potential is limited by funds because of the expensive tech needed. You have to water down great ideas into something feasible and cost flexible because there might not be enough to pay for good artists or more programmers or motion capture equiptment, something like that. Think of all the visions for games that could've become great but didn't get a chance because they were turned down by a manufacturer for not following an ideal consept, or setbacks because of dumbing down specs.

The way I see it, if a creative individual has a dream to release a game he or she thinks will be great based on their vision, they either have to do it on their own with whatever slim chance they have of doing so building a team, funding the project by themselves, and doing what it takes to get it out there, or work their ass off for years from the bottom to the top to have a say in what becomes of or what goes to accomplish that vision. The point I wanna make is that the industry needs some changes. I hate that everything comes down to money and the majority of gamers out there are so closed minded.
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fight it. Make your own games. Also many big companies started a small no name companies or even indies themselves back then. Indies do not make games for profit only, they also do it because they simply love doing it(well we don't refuse revenue if possible). Then again all small developers should have a good marketing plan in order to sustain a healthy revenue if they consider to make a living from their hobby. It is the reality of the real world. Find a way to deal with it and hope for the best or do something else(something else than making games...).

Even I hate that everything comes down to money but I have to pay my bills like most people and therefore I accept the condition that everything DO comes down to money whether I like it or not. Deal with it by finding smart ways to get your name known, spend a lot of time doing marketing SHOULD be a big part of a small indie studios schedule in order to get revenue from a game. There is a war going on and it is the war between the big game publisher and the small indie studios. In fact we all fight for the audiences attention and money. What can we do? Grab a cold coke, dry your eyes clean and back to work [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/tongue.png[/img]
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We're talking about a multi-billion dollar, international industry; it does and will continue to come down to money for the vast majority of the industry. Trying to change that as a whole is a pretty futile adventure.

The "problem" is that people need money. You need a place to live and some food and you WANT a lot more than that. I would guess that the closest to taking the money out of the decision making process you can do is make yourself the person that's financially responsible. So that way if you're losing money on a game, it's only hurting you (as long as you're still taking care of the people who worked with/for you to make the game as you agreed to). But that's not a hit that people are often open to taking.

I would say that it's not all the industry, either. It's partially the consumers. If people didn't go buy Modern Warfare 6, the odds of Modern Warfare 7 releasing and looking and playing like it would be very low. We consumers frequently say one thing (we want more innovation in the industry) but speak with what matters most (dollars/yen/rupees/euros/etc) in a very different fashion (we buy the series we know that gets cranked out annually instead of the innovative game that tried something totally different).

So, in my mind, there are multiple problems in play; some within your control and some not. But even the ones that are in your control require you to be the person to take the risk. And ultimately, I think the majority of people are not that kind of risk taker.
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[quote name='j-locke' timestamp='1340581566' post='4952477']
The "problem" is that people need money.
[/quote]

Indeed. that is the "problem". So everything simply just has to come down to money. No money no shelter, food, social security etc. The OP should not see this as a bad thing but more as a great driving force(just a suggestion). I mean why be angry about something that cannot be undone? By accepting the terms given by reality one will be so much more realistic and careful in setting goals for the future. Edited by Dwarf King
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I thought [url="http://extra-credits.net/episodes/innovation/"]Extra Credits had an interesting take on this[/url]
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Think of game development like a musician does to music. Some are in it for the money, some are in it for the glory, and some of them are in it because its in their blood. They need to create. Game creation is a art medium that can be a business, not the reverse. As they say not everybody is going to be a rock star so its best to put your focus where your heart is and you will be happy, success or not. You don't have to work for the industry, let it work for you. Whether you leverage the power of a new development environment or decide to use prefab content, there is plenty of tools the industry now provides the resourceful developer can take advantage of to jump start his game. Don't necessarily quit the day job, you can develop your game on the side and release it independently. It doesn't cost much if anything to get it off the ground and in public distribution. Rather quickly too. If it is good enough there are plenty of ways to monetize it later. Edited by Dream Cutter
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Just one counter example:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-04-27/why-there-are-no-bosses-at-valve

But for the most part, I'm sure it does suck. Heck, most companies suck regardless of industry. Just keep your eyes open for the exceptions, or try to roll your own.
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[quote name='SaNcT17' timestamp='1340579343' post='4952465']
The way I see it, if a creative individual has a dream to release a game he or she thinks will be great based on their vision
[/quote]
I think this is your problem. Games are much more collaborative than I think you make them out to be. A creative individual trying to preserve their vision will probably struggle because of the collaboration required, not because of money.

That said, I think people underrate the creativity in sequels and get angsty about it. There's often a lot of creativity in them that gets overshadowed by the fact that they have to preserve core gameplay.

Halo for example, the original was a solid game. Halo 2 added one of the most fluid online experiences to that point. Halo 3 added Forge and equipment. ODST added non-linear storytelling and a view of the story from a new perspective. Reach expanded on forge and added loadouts. Halo 4 is adding weekly episodic content through spartan ops, which I'm excited for.

it's easy to ignore innovation when it's not being applied to the core gameplay even though it's still there I guess is my point.
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[quote name='way2lazy2care' timestamp='1340629639' post='4952641']
I think this is your problem. Games are much more collaborative than I think you make them out to be. A creative individual trying to preserve their vision will probably struggle because of the collaboration required, not because of money.

[/quote]

I know it requires collaboration, AAA games cant be done on one person and you're not the only designer working there. I would be open to other creative minds to contribute because my vision alone won't cut it. Edited by SaNcT17
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[quote name='SaNcT17' timestamp='1340579343' post='4952465']
Or maybe its just me. I've been doing research on the video game industry for a while now and I'm trying to force myself out of the thought that the industry is a horrible place to work unless you're a talented indie developer making big hits for multiple platforms. I say this because of many things. I get discouraged when I see the majority of games on the shelf of a retailer like gamestop being outshined by games like Modern Warfare, Assasin's Creed, Halo and so on. Many games made on long tired hours by talented individuals stay out of the public eye and dont make much of a profit. Also the cost of making games today, is very discouraging because everything comes down to a decision and a huge budget. Its seems as though creativity potential is limited by funds because of the expensive tech needed. You have to water down great ideas into something feasible and cost flexible because there might not be enough to pay for good artists or more programmers or motion capture equiptment, something like that. Think of all the visions for games that could've become great but didn't get a chance because they were turned down by a manufacturer for not following an ideal consept, or setbacks because of dumbing down specs.

The way I see it, if a creative individual has a dream to release a game he or she thinks will be great based on their vision, they either have to do it on their own with whatever slim chance they have of doing so building a team, funding the project by themselves, and doing what it takes to get it out there, or work their ass off for years from the bottom to the top to have a say in what becomes of or what goes to accomplish that vision. The point I wanna make is that the industry needs some changes. I hate that everything comes down to money and the majority of gamers out there are so closed minded.
[/quote]

Excepting the obvious industry-related jargon. Nothing you have said here convinces me that it is unique to the game industry. Issues such as you have mentioned tend to be fairly common to not just the artistic sectors but also scientific, technical,...basically the industry of business in general.
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I agree with some of the post here that associates gamedev with the music industry. It's a non-tangible, mass distribute able product. One company can serve many. Remember that one of the reason Valve was here in the first place is that when they do a market research, Doom was the number one software installed, Windows was second.

And just like music, the winner hit the jackpot, the lowest one have to pay to actually do gig. And just like in films, stars get 20 mill per movie, most waited tables. While some people compare this to other job, that is NOT the case.

No matter how good a person is at flying, a commercial plane require two pilot - per plane. There is a limit of number of students per teacher. So on and so forth. But in game industry, a good company can serves many.
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[quote name='SaNcT17' timestamp='1340579343' post='4952465']
I get discouraged when I see the majority of games on the shelf of a retailer like gamestop being outshined by games like Modern Warfare, Assasin's Creed, Halo and so on
[/quote]
Speaking for the earlier versions of Modern Warfare and Halo, these games are actually really fun well built FPS in my humble opinion, just cause somethign is popular doesnt mean its "bad".

[quote name='SaNcT17' timestamp='1340579343' post='4952465']
The way I see it, if a creative individual has a dream to release a game he or she thinks will be great based on their vision, they either have to do it on their own with whatever slim chance they have of doing so building a team, funding the project by themselves, and doing what it takes to get it out there, or work their ass off for years from the bottom to the top to have a say in what becomes of or what goes to accomplish that vision. The point I wanna make is that the industry needs some changes. I hate that everything comes down to money and the majority of gamers out there are so closed minded.
[/quote]

Alot of these dreams and ideas are worth as much as the paper they are written on, you have no idea how many times as a developer people approach me, friends and family with their multi million dollar idea that is sure to make us rich, and of course they ask me to build it myself ( free of charge mind you :-| ). Someones idea or dream isn't going to be any better just because they work as an individual rather than a company.

Honeslty hard work and determination and drive are sooooo much important then being "creative" individual, and like you said " they either have to do it on their own with whatever slim chance they have of doing so building a team, funding the project by themselves, and doing what it takes to get it out there, or work their ass off for years from the bottom to the top....." If you are just a creative person and your not willing to put the work in then I probably wouldn't want to play your game anyhow. Its not suppose to be easy and people aren't just going to line up to work on your project for free to carry at you'r vision, what about their vision? Thats why business works because you are compensating them for their time and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Dont get me wrong though im a HUGE fan of the indie market, and I literally just buy a game because its indie to support the indie market. But I wouldnt go to the extreme of saying indie trumps companies, alot of the big name games are actually fun and great, its terrible to shoot them down just because they have more money or are more popular.
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I tend to agree with StormyNature on this one:

Welcome to real life.

EVERY industry requires money. About the only industry I can think of where someone can do well by themselves is medicine, but even that requires a staff of workers to support them. Maybe sub-fields like psychology where you could make your own appointments and really only need a professional-looking suite at your home.

But even then, money plays an important factor. Everyone still has bills to pay.
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[quote name='frob' timestamp='1340638414' post='4952683']
I tend to agree with StormyNature on this one:
[/quote]

+1.

I recently saw [url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/moonrise_kingdom/"]Moonrise Kingdom[/url]. It's way hidden underneath the summer blockbusters Brave, Madagascar, or even the horrible That's My Boy. The artistic quality of that movie is excellent. It makes me understand why people love creating movies. The camera angles, the panning, the framing, the timing, the conversations -- all of those are highly notable, is probably what movie-making is all about (I don't make movies, so I'm only making assumptions here that these are probably what those movie people love). The fact that Bruce Willis and Bill Murray are in there is a huge bonus.

Did it ever get publicized as much as the summer blockbusters? The fact that a low-quality movie like That's My Boy snatches the #7 spot in the box office tells you that hit movies, or games, do not necessarily equal to quality. Hollywood has its recipes for making big popular movies, just like EA/Activision have recipes for making million-dollar hit games. When money started to flow in, that's probably when games (or anything else really) starts to lose its "intrinsic" value. The goal is no longer about making a good game, but more money.
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I'm gonna go with frob's perspective here: welcome to real life.

This is the nature of existence in a capitalist society. Life is money-driven, and like it or not, the majority of the population is motivated by few things besides acquisition of more money.

This is also hardly a new phenomenon, or in any way related to video games or technology. Philosophers as far back as the roots of the industrial revolution were making similar (albeit far more cogent and well-researched) observations. And philosophers ever since have been arguing about how best to cope with the way of life in such a society.

At the end of the day, there are many ways to deal with this, and which suits you best depends primarily on your own personality, desires, and goals. But all the answers boil down to one thing:


Congratulations, you've observed a key fact of life. Now go do something about it.
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I would agree with the "welcome to the real world" sentiment, but also add that the last 5 (10 maybe) years have been great for the indie developer. The wealth of tools, engines, language choices, publishing options, knowledge resources, etc. now available is remarkable compared to when I started out in the hobby.

In fact, there is a great selection of "indie" games out there, exploring novel ideas and gameplay, and making money.

So - welcome to the real world, but it ain't really as bad as it seems.
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I have mixed feelings about the videogame industry. Most of my work after I got my bachelors degree was in it. It's pretty neat at times, and I learned a lot in the process of working in it (I had to learn how to code in hard C for a project, and with it how to use void pointers).

You enter thinking that you are going to have immense creative freedom, then discover that you're working 80 hour weeks on a project that doesn't interest you at all. (On top of that the first place I worked for went bankrupt and I wasn't paid for a period of time, it was a big mess)

After being unemployed for over a year I managed to get into EA QA (I also helped out with some of the scripting as well). They were apprehensive because they thought I was overqualified, sure enough I was let go when the project was finished.

Afterwords I enjoyed myself much more as a programmer in a small independant company that mostly focused on mobile games or contracted work with larger studios.

It has a lot of ups and downs and for the most part it's just how the industry works. Lot's of hard work and stress, relatively lower pay, and a tough market to compete in.

Now I'm in graduate school on track for a PhD. Game programming is now a hobby of mine (It goes along with computational mathematics research well too). From time to time I miss being in the industry (I'm having some fun reading reviews for a game that just came out that I worked on for a few months), but for now I'm happy doing soemthing else.
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I disagree that this is just the way the world is, or the way other companies are. Other industries aren't like this - even within technology/software, the long hours/lower pay seem to be a particular problem in the games industry, compared with elsewhere. Or are people disputing those claims?

Whether capitalism is good or bad for working conditions is a debate in itself, but there are plenty of jobs that do a lot better, even though the aim is still to make money.
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The OP wasn't talking about working conditions so much as creative freedom and the drive to produce shlock that consumers will buy en masse. Nobody really disputes that industry working conditions could use some help in a lot of studios, but then, there's also terrible places to work outside of games as well, so... meh.
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I think money (synonym for popularity), is the key. "Indie", to me, means not popular, and thus not profitable. Why hasn't there been a Jersey Shores game, yet? Give it a few months.
Eventually corporations will always figure out how to enter, and eventually drive a market. Heck, they pay people millions of dollars just to figure out how to. They take over something interesting and different, an outstanding idea, possibly unpolished idea, then drive it back to the middle, back into the grey muck known as "popularity".
And popularity is dictated by the masses. There are more 6 year old than 12, and more 12 years olds than 20. And 6 year olds are easier to impress. But I'm just as guilty - I still fan boy over such beloved horrible childhood atrocities as He-man, Hanna Barbara, and the Never Ending Story (wouldn't that be an awesome mash up, though?)
Sorry for the rant, but I've spent my entire life entering the game development industry, and know it is, in the end, as fundamentally rewarding as being a crack dealer in a playground. However, I can't help it - I love the challenges it brings. I wish I had been a doctor.
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[quote name='ApochPiQ' timestamp='1340730660' post='4953068']
The OP wasn't talking about working conditions so much as creative freedom and the drive to produce shlock that consumers will buy en masse. Nobody really disputes that industry working conditions could use some help in a lot of studios, but then, there's also terrible places to work outside of games as well, so... meh.
[/quote]
My worst experiences have been outside of games.

Inside games I have had relatively good management, well-scoped projects, and managers who were understanding about QoL issues.

Outside games I have had bosses who didn't understand what a five-day work week was about, who felt that federal labor laws for overtime were overbearing.



I've learned what to look for when it comes to QoL. It applies both inside and outside the industry:

The biggest factors are average age of the workers and turnover rates. Low turnover and older workers means they treat people well. Most older people don't put up with that kind of crap for long. If the company manages to retain older and experienced workers then they are generally doing many things right.



Pulling back on topic, the creative juices for a multi-million dollar AAA project flow very differently than the creative juices from a 3-person team. The former has the original designers and producers craft their idea into a snowball, and eventually it turns into an avalanche where nobody has much input on its direction. It gets big, it gets awesome, it will impact millions, but somewhere along the line everyone's individual creativity gets subsumed. The latter is more like a block of marble and some chisels. They can take all the time they need to develop their art, and be the only ones interested in its success or failure. Hopefully they can craft a piece of art, but odds are it will die in obscurity.

The vast majority of games are tiny (often incomplete) art pieces that nobody has heard of, and nobody ever will.

The larger games that is known by many hundred million people have grown into money-needing creations like you describe. You may not like the way they grew, but big budgets (and therefore monetization) is the only reliable way they can reach the masses. Edited by frob
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Money is votes, and games which get the most money get voted the highest. Game companies which see their games earning lots of money will naturally assume that there's interest in a sequel. It's a safer bet to invest your money into a sequel for a popular game which already has an established player base than to invent a brand new IP. That's why we see a lot of companies making lots of version of Call of Duty, The Sims, Diablo, Halo, Deus Ex, etc. There is quite a bit of new and fresh content within the sequels (there has to be, or the sequel to the sequel will fail).

If you really want to see lots of innovation in the industry, support the indie devs with your dollars :) Ten dollars may not be much for a few hours of entertainment, but it means life and relief for the indie devs. Their first project may not have been the best it could be due to limited resources (time, money, people). If they get funding, they can spend more time making fresh new games with more resources at their disposal, so everyone wins.
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Horrible industry? Compared to what? Every industry has long hours, poor pay, etc.. On a whole the game industry is better than average, it's an entertainment industry which is open to independents and outsiders, so u get to meet all types of people. Indies can make it, large companies too and everyone in between. The entry barrier is low so it just takes some work and there are even trade schools now. Will you get that perfect job? We'll not right away but if your good u can make it into the top studios.

What this industry does offer is inter-disciplinary collaboration and networking. Some of the smartest people go through the games industry before migrating out. You'll also find some of the most talented artists, designers, software engineers, sound artists and musicians as well. You'll never meet or collaborate with such talent working in the banking industry programming backend servers, but you'll make alot more money. If money is all you want, there are much more lucrative software sectors. I don't know about other industries but people within games usually have a passion be it their craft or a dream which got them into the industry in the first place. You'll rarely see that in other fields. There is good, there is bad it's what you make of it.

-ddn
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I don't see myself working in any game studio. There is not much innovation going on, the pay is not very good, etc. Overall though, game industry is one of few places where an individual or small group of people can make complete product, sell it, and profit. Except very few have required skill and discipline. There's also some demand 'slots' for popular games that end up taken by simple stuff like bejewelled, but getting those is a lottery among the many with competent, working games, and I think most common mistake people make is trying to imitate something from this category (angry birds for example). There's only a place for very few mega-hits within any genre at any time, and you end up with a lot of games that are very good, and one of them ends up making hundred millions, and you think, that was the best game, but it was mostly random between many such 'best games'.
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Oh, god, don't tell people that success is random Dmy, it scares them and consequently makes them angry. I've seriously gotten death threats from pointing out that WoW became the most popular MMO because of a unique confluence of popular IP, minimal competition, and extensive advertising and awareness outside of the core gaming demographic.
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