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TheDelinquinaut

Designer vs Publisher

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Game Designer vs Game Publisher...why is there such a conflict here? In the least year I have had the oppertunity to work with a few good indipendent design teams (re: working for free) on a variable number of project. During the time when it came to finding a publisher I began to notice a disturbing trend... Clone games, that''s where your chance of picking up a publisher is. Let me give you an example from a recent (beginning of this year) experience. The team finnished a (IMO) very good demo of a FPS game and was starting to pitch it to publishers. It was somewhat different fromt he off the rack FPS that was/is out there now, but hey don''t people always say that originality is good? In a little over a months time we pitched the projet to over 30 publishers. Of those that were even thinking of taking on a new project (close to 70% or so) we ran into a whole new problem. Before many of the publishers would even look at the demo they asked a single devastating question: "Is it like Halo or Counter-Strike?" sometimes accompanied by "Is is a WW2 game?" Since in our case the answer "no" to all 3 that dropped 80%+ of the publishers who were willing to speak to us. Now I can think about this from both perspectives. Games are a very competitive market and publishers don''t want to take risks with "new" games when they see a certain other type of game doing well. Okay that makes sense. But... If a game starts core development now its going to be another 9-18 months before the game is on the shelves. In a year from now who knows what''s going to be popular and selling. Why do these companies look at todays market for what will sell a year from now in a industry where things change so fast that 3 months from now it will be a whole new ball-game? What am I missing? I realized the publishers want to "play it safe" but look at the games that did/are doing well...did those companier play it safe? No. They took a risk and developed something new, or at least "newer". But it seems the industry has "clamped" down on innovation and once a recognized game dev/pub makes a game that sells well (HL/MOHAA/Halo/ect) for the next while all publishers want to see is clones of that game in the hope of taking a piece of the pie. Meanwhile innovative games are being left behind because they have no support. The next great game may ave already been seen and rejected because it wasn''t a clone of a current popular game. Now where does that put the devs/designers??? If you/we are just starting a project now do we have to think that unless its a close of the big seller in 6-12 months from now (or when ever you begin to pitch to pubishers) we left out in the cold? Seems to be that way. Now I design games becuase thats what I love to do. I also like to get paid because we all know that love alone doesnt put food ont he table and pay the rent. So to some degree many of us are also in this for the money (not to say that means getting "rich", just getting paid). So how can we design a game with this knowlegde in mind??? I am about to start a new design, I have a design doc mostly written but now face this prospect that it could amount to nothing. What do you do? Please also note that this is drawn from my personal experience and not represientive of everyone. I''m sure they''re are a ton of great success stories eveyone can tell. I''m not going to argue that. What I am saying is that I know I''m not alone in this and what can we do about it?d

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I don''t think you''re alone in this, and I''m sure there are not *that* many success stories coming from the indie developer scene. It''s true that publishers don''t see to always reward innovation, but the whole business model behind game development is pretty much a sham, so who can blame them for being afraid to take a chance? I''m not saying publishers are blameless in this, but how many teams have promised to deliver something that fell apart in the end, not necessarily because of ''publisher interference'', but because the team was inexperienced and their ideas too ambitious? That''s why a lot of people recommend to start small, or try to get a contract to do an add-on pack for a popular game (think Barking Dog with Cataclysm, or Gearbox with Opposing Force). I''m not saying this is your situation, because I don''t know you or your team.

A game agent friend of mine says the average publisher looks at 9 potential projects a day. A DAY! And those are only the ones that make it through the initial filters. Think about that.

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Money buys freedom. Create a profitable game, clone or not. Next time around you stand a much better chance of being able to pitch a unique game.



::aggression is the result of fear::

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quote:
Original post by TheDelinquinaut
Why do these companies look at todays market for what will sell a year from now in a industry where things change so fast that 3 months from now it will be a whole new ball-game?

I disagree. I don''t think 18 months is a long time in this industry... FPS, the ''fashionable genre'' in 1995, is still a fashionable genre today.

quote:
I realized the publishers want to "play it safe" but look at the games that did/are doing well...did those companier play it safe? No. They took a risk and developed something new, or at least "newer".

They did? Nearly all the success stories I''ve seen are merely iterative developments on an old theme.

quote:
But it seems the industry has "clamped" down on innovation and once a recognized game dev/pub makes a game that sells well (HL/MOHAA/Halo/ect) for the next while all publishers want to see is clones of that game in the hope of taking a piece of the pie.

Better to guarantee a small slice of a large pie than a large slice of a potentially non-existent pie. Publishers take big risks when they take on a project... massive risks. Million-dollar risks.

quote:
Now where does that put the devs/designers???

Go it alone, and develop in your spare time. Or try a smaller publisher. Or ''pay your dues'' in the industry and pitch your idea to a publisher who knows your reputation for delivering.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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Well Now,

As far as genres go I agree with kylotan, there were always RPG, FPS which were really popular like FF4,5,6 Etc. you still see games like that such as Diablo 2 has survied as well as Baldurs gate series and the FF series. Also yes FPS has thrived since Doom. MGS series also has a winning formula and these formulas so far have stood the test of time. I for one will be straight out there for MGS3 and FF11...

STVOY



Pyre Light Studios (Under Construction)


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quote:
If a game starts core development now its going to be another 9-18 months before the game is on the shelves. In a year from now who knows what''s going to be popular and selling. Why do these companies look at todays market for what will sell a year from now in a industry where things change so fast that 3 months from now it will be a whole new ball-game?


You want to know what''s going to be selling in a year? In all likelihood the exact same stuff that''s selling right now. Doubt me? Sim games (from SimCity through to The Sims) are still one of the highest selling game franchises ever and selling better every few months. Turn-based strategy... think it''s dead? Civ III. RTS? Heck, StarCraft and WarCraft are still selling. FPSs? I guess there is no reason to even comment on that game. RPGs? Can you say Baldur''s Gate, Diablo II, EQ, UO, DAoC? There are several others that come in, such as Real Time Tactics, such as Myth and so forth.

You know why some minor, ''flash in the pan'' genres seem to fall out so quickly? Poor implementation in one or two games soon after the genre that ends up burning the publisher and scares others away from making the same mistake.

Games today are simply adaptations of games that were successful a dozen years ago for the mostpart. RTS games are just adaptations from turn-based strategy, most RPGs are just 3D adaptations of the traditional top-down RPGs. MMORPGs are just the mixing of the newer style, 1st person RPGs (like Elder Scrolls) with MUDs and a little chat client tossed in for good measure.

Nothing really has changed except for implementation.

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Here is what I would do:

Tell each publisher that the game is a clone of (Insert hit game''s name here), then begin the game similar to that other game (as if it were a clone). Then completely divert to your real game later (perhaps as part of the plot).

The publisher gets what they want and so does the development team. Everybody wins.

ion

________________________________________

Is our existance a life-long virtual reality simulation from another realm?

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quote:
Original post by ion
Then completely divert to your real game later (perhaps as part of the plot).

Publishers have milestones to make sure you''re doing exactly what you said you would. Switch on them and lose your funding. Gas Powered Games'' Chris Taylor (Total Annihilation, Dungeon Siege) said in an interview that they missed a milestone and Microsoft simply said they wouldn''t be paid.

[ GDNet Start Here | GDNet Search Tool | GDNet FAQ | MS RTFM [MSDN] | SGI STL Docs | Google! ]
Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!

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quote:
Original post by TheDelinquinaut
Let me give you an example from a recent (beginning of this year) experience.

The team finnished a (IMO) very good demo of a FPS game and was starting to pitch it to publishers. It was somewhat different fromt he off the rack FPS that was/is out there now, but hey don''t people always say that originality is good?

In a little over a months time we pitched the projet to over 30 publishers. Of those that were even thinking of taking on a new project (close to 70% or so) we ran into a whole new problem. Before many of the publishers would even look at the demo they asked a single devastating question:

"Is it like Halo or Counter-Strike?" sometimes accompanied by "Is is a WW2 game?"
Since in our case the answer "no" to all 3 that dropped 80%+ of the publishers who were willing to speak to us.




Well first off, there''s a major component of your problem. Your answer was no. Did you game really have nothing in it like Halo or Counter-Strike? If it has something similar, like team based gameply, or highly detailed enviroments, use that as a spring board.
The ideal answer is "We took the best elements from each (optionally list some of what you included). We also added some new features like (list stuff that makes your game cool). We feel that the combination of these will attract present fans of Counter-Strike, keep them with the new, innovative elements, and bring new fans of other geners to the game with its xyz elements."

Or, in the short term. "Is it like Halo or Counter-Strike?"
"Hell no. It''s better."

When you go into a discussion you have to rattle that out.

Hope that helped.

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quote:
Original post by ThoughtBubble
The ideal answer is "We took the best elements from each (optionally list some of what you included). We also added some new features like (list stuff that makes your game cool). We feel that the combination of these will attract present fans of Counter-Strike, keep them with the new, innovative elements, and bring new fans of other geners to the game with its xyz elements."

Or, in the short term. "Is it like Halo or Counter-Strike?"
"Hell no. It''s better."

I like this guy! He understands pitches and getting people sold on stuff.

[ GDNet Start Here | GDNet Search Tool | GDNet FAQ | MS RTFM [MSDN] | SGI STL Docs | Google! ]
Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!

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oluseyi wrote:

< them and lose your funding. Gas Powered Games'' Chris Taylor (Total Annihilation, Dungeon Siege)
said in an interview that they missed a milestone and Microsoft simply said they wouldn''t be paid. >>

What I meant was the the game could start off lets say as an FPS where you are shooting Nazi''s, then in a later level perhaps you find the hidden NAZI time machine where you must encounter (Insert your game here).

I did not mean change the entire game later, I should have said "Later in the game" as in a late stage of the game. Your client still gets a "Clone" but you also get the chance to develop the game (or part of) your dreams.

Sorry, I shou,ld have been more articulate.

ion

____________________________________

Is our existance a life-long virtual reality simulation from another realm?

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quote:
Well first off, there''s a major component of your problem. Your answer was no. Did you game really have nothing in it like Halo or Counter-Strike? If it has something similar, like team based gameply, or highly detailed enviroments, use that as a spring board.
The ideal answer is "We took the best elements from each (optionally list some of what you included).


Yeah, I was thinking that maybe they were being to specific about it not being like Halo or CS. What they might have been asking is whether it''s time setting is future, current or past. There are really only 3 options there and anything else is pretty much silly. Even though your game might not play much like them or even have similar storylines, they have to take place in a particular time period.

Stop thinking like game designers and start thinking like someone who knows NOTHING about games. Most publishers really don''t know much about games, they know about market trends.

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