industry

Crowfall’s Raph Koster goes into insane depth on the cost of creating video games

If you have an exceptional memory, you might recall that a couple of months ago, Crowfall and Star Wars Galaxies designer Raph Koster wrote up a blog post on the cost of making games. The MMO expert followed that up this week with a much, much more detailed presentation that attempts to show hard data to back up his claims.

Koster said that he used industry contacts and other research to assemble data from over 250 games made from 1985 to today that shows the development cost minus the money spent on marketing. He even goes so far as to break down the cost of dollars per developed byte of information, which is where he sees costs for game falling. He said that when you look at it this way, players are getting a “deal” for games these days.

“Lots of people have made the observation that in terms of raw purchasing power, players pay around half of what they used to in the ’80s,” he notes.

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Amazon’s New World page is back again [Updated]

On Monday of last week, we reported that a video of the anticipated and rather mysterious New World from Amazon had been leaked… and the game’s Amazon landing page vanished at the same time, sending out missives to everyone who’d registered to follow it. In what is probably good news, it turns out the page is back again and none the worse for wear. So now you get to pick your own explanation for what happened to it.

  • It was never supposed to go down at all and was entirely an accident, and the timing of that and the video is pure coincidence.
  • The removal and replacement represents a big shift of some sort behind the scenes and the leaked video was before the change, thus meaning that the leak may not bear much resemblance to the final product.
  • It was already cancelled but somehow the page got turned back on by mistake.
  • Someone thought it was Breakaway.

Which one is correct? We don’t know yet! Perhaps keeping our eyes on the page will produce some answers.

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Why developers believe abusive vitriol is the cost of doing business with games

When is it appropriate to send verbal abuse to someone you don’t know personally? When is it appropriate to tell someone that you hope they lose their job or suffer significant personal injury? The obvious answer to these questions should all be “never,” and yet a new article by small indie developer Morgan Jaffit points out that in the game industry, dealing with vicious targeted abuse is part of the cost of doing business. Development across the board is dealing with people who feel that there is a point when all of this is appropriate, even if they differ on the circumstances when it’s appropriate.

Needless to say, this has a pretty huge impact on development, and it spills over to related fields. (Is it appropriate to say awful things to a community manager over a feature you don’t like when the community manager is not a developer and had nothing to do with it?) The article cites the omnipresence of social media and the popularity of personalities who “tell it like it is” (read: spew invective and curses at top volume), and it’s the sort of thing that everyone who cares about the future of games should read and consider.

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EA filed an ‘Engagement Optimized Matchmaking’ patent in 2016

Remember Activision’s rather skeezy matchmaking patent from last year? That one was pretty straightforward in how it worked, if unpleasant: You buy something from the cash shop, and the game then makes an effort to match you up in a place where that cash shop purchase was a super great idea. Turns out that Electronic Arts has a similar but distinct patent filed from 2016, and it should get your hackles up just as much as its predecessor.

This one, at least, is not going to validate your every cash shop purchase directly; instead, it’s a matchmaking system dubbed Engagement Optimized Matchmaking that links you up based on play style, sportsmanship, skill, and willingness to spend money. The bright side you could point to is that it’s less explicitly about reinforcing cash shop purchases; the down side is that it’s still a matching system based on keeping you playing rather than providing a fair match, and at this point EA does not exactly have the goodwill of players. You can watch a whole video breaking it down piece by piece below.

Also worth noting is that the patent was filed in 2016, but it has not yet been approved. So it doesn’t appear to be live in the wild yet, but it’s on track to be.

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LawBreakers is the weak link in Nexon’s Q3 2017 financial results

Here’s the good news for Nexon’s Q3 2017 investor call: The company had a good set of third-quarter results overall, and it has a strong lineup of titles in the pipeline, including the long-awaited and largely unrevealed Final Fantasy XI mobile incarnation. Here’s the bad news: LawBreakers was the weak link in its lineup. Not only was it responsible for the majority of the company’s losses during the quarter, but company CTO Shiro Uemura stated that the game would acquire no further losses, meaning that it had functionally been written off altogether.

What does that mean for the future of the game? Nothing positive; companies don’t tend to write off games they plan to continue supporting. Your speculation is welcome, but it should run toward darker possibilities. On the bright side, it looks like the future is bright for Nexon as a whole, so based on player numbers the fate of LawBreakers is not so much cloudy as it is unpleasant.

Also worth noting is that Nexon has merged its Nexon RED and NDOORs subsidiaries, both with a roster of successful games under their belts. The merge is aimed at providing more consolidated and skilled mobile game development.

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Rumor: Blizzard’s next title involves vehicles and may be an Overwatch spinoff

There’s a title under development at Blizzard that’s been hiring for a while now, but no one actually knows what it is. So when a new job opening goes up looking for people familiar in working with vehicles, the assumption that the title has vehicles in it seems… well, rather natural. Another job listing is just looking for a software engineer, which doesn’t suggest much about the content of the game.

The current speculation is that the title is some sort of Overwatch spinoff, although nothing has been confirmed or stated about that; it just matches the first-person design requirements, some job listings have mentioned familiarity with character sheets in existing Blizzard properties, and there’s more than enough material to mine out for more games. But what does it actually entail? We won’t know until these positions are filled and something is actually announced, sadly.

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New Zealand declares lootboxes not gambling under the law

Are lootboxes gambling? It seems like such a simple question, but it really isn’t simple from a legal or ethical standpoint, and the answer has a pretty big impact. According to the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, following reviews, lootboxes do not meet the legal requirements of gambling, thus freeing them from the scrutiny of agencies designed to look more closely into gambling-related issues.

In short, the argument hinges upon the fact that lootbox items cannot be exchanged for cash and thus do not qualify as gambling under the law. That having been said, it’s not an ironclad ruling which cannot be changed; indeed, it’s something likely to be debated extensively as more and more lawmakers turn a critical eye toward the practice. For the moment, though, New Zealand considers them perfectly acceptable and has picked a side in the ongoing battle.

Source: Gamasutra

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Half of the LawBreakers founding team has left the studio

The face of LawBreakers development and Boss Key is arguably Cliff Bleszinski, but Arjan Brussee was co-founder of the studio and half of the brain trust behind the studio as a whole. We use the past-tense there, though, because according to Twitter Brussee is no longer with the studio. He’s announced that he has left and is heading back to Epic Games to work on a “secret project,” with no word on what that might entail.

Of course, that’s what makes it a secret, but you know how it is.

Bleszinski himself has wished Brussee the best of luck on Twitter without any acrimonious undertones. There’s no announcement at this point about who will take over Brussee’s duties at Boss Key. It’s not an entirely unusual move after a studio’s first major release has shipped for people to move on to different careers; we’ll see what this means in the longer term for Boss Key (if anything) in the months to come.

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Clicker Heroes dev on abandoning the free-to-play model for the sequel

If you’ve never played Clicker Heroes, you can pick it up for your phone or on Steam right now; it’s a lightweight little idle game like Cookie Clicker, except with MMORPG-inspired classes, leveling, and zones. It’s pretty great. And it has a sequel in development, Clicker Heroes 2, which is not going to be free and use a microtransaction model. That’s kind of a swerve in the other direction, and the developers have taken the time to explain why a studio with a successful free-to-play game would develop a pay-to-play sequel.

The letter explains that while the free-to-play model always worked, it also led to some people spending thousands of dollars on the game, which led to concerns about people spending money they couldn’t afford to spend on the game. It also meant that no changes could be made to invalidate real-money purchases, which meant sometimes awkward patches on the game’s systems over time. While no changes will be made to the original, Clicker Heroes 2 will have a box price that the studio hopes can also support mods and enjoyable gameplay.

Source: Official Site via PC Gamer; thanks to Castagere for the tip!

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Raph Koster on the cost of making games from the industry side

All of this talk about the price of making games and the price of playing games thanks to Star Wars: Battlefront II has meant getting a pretty decent peek behind the curtain. Case in point: a lengthy discussion and explanation by Raph Koster about how expensive games really are. While Koster outright says that it’s wrong to say games are “too expensive to make,” he also points out that it’s undeniable that costs on making a game have risen hugely while box price has proportionally fallen. And as he points out, that’s because there’s no real market for second best.

The key thing to understand is that the public doesn’t buy B games. A game with stellar gameplay and less than state of the art graphics is generally simply left on the shelf. Yes, indie games with distinctive art have managed to break through so everyone will cite counterexamples, but looked at statistically, it’s something like 99.9% don’t.

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Steam continues reviews system tinkering to thwart spam

Steam has been doubling down on addressing review problems lately, starting with its attempt to counter review bombing. This has been a good thing, but it has led to a new sort of bombing, flagging several reviews as “helpful” or “not helpful” to afford extra weight to the positive or negative readings. So the storefront is bringing out new adjustments to help make reviews more fair, starting by affording less weight to users who flag huge numbers of reviews for a single game “helpful” or “not helpful.”

How the reviews are displayed on the store page will also change; rather than showing the highest-rated reviews, the overall proportions shown will match the overall rating of the game. So if the title has a 70% Positive rating, seven of the helpful reviews will be shown on the page. The hope is that this will, again, prevent players from launching personal crusades just to diminish a game’s presence; time will tell how successful these measures are.

Source: Steam via Gamasutra

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PlayerUnknown thinks PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds doesn’t deserve game of the year

Did you know that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is up for a Game of the Year award? Probably not, because… like, there are a lot of those. Every publication has its own game of the year awards. We have our own game of the year awards. It’s only a matter of time before Cat Fancy starts publishing one, and we can only pray the market reaches critical cat-related mass by that point. But the important thing is that it’s up for one, and Brendan Greene (aka PlayerUnknown himself, the person who owns the battlegrounds) doesn’t think it deserves one.

Is that because the game is still technically clinging to early access and has not actually launched? No, in this case it’s apparently just that he thinks better games have been released over the past year. Whether or not the judges agree remain to be seen, although we’re relatively certain that the game will win at least a couple of awards. And if not, he can always start up his own game of the year awards. Everyone’s got some now.

Source: VG24/7

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EA drops the costs of heroes – and reward payouts – in Star Wars: Battlefront II by 75%

Don’t be too proud of the barrier to entry you’ve constructed; the ability to make in-game unlocks incredibly expensive is insignificant next to the power of angry consumers. An update after the latest furor over Star Wars: Battlefront II’s hero unlock prices sees the prices for these characters slashed by 75%, bringing Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader down to 15,000 credits, while Palpatine, Leia, and Chewbacca will run 10,000 credits and Iden will cost only 5,000 credits.

What EA doesn’t note in its blog post is that it also reduced reward payouts commensurately.

We’re sure the cost is one that’s still meant to provide a sense of pride and accomplishment, somehow. Whether or not this mollifies players who were rather justifiably miffed about the whole thing remains to be seen; what is already quite obvious is that this is not something that the target audience is taking lightly, so the next move is on Electronic Arts – and that move appears to be an AMA?

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