Playable Worlds’ lead designer: ‘We’re in the game industry because we love games’

    
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Earlier this month, Playable Worlds’ Greg Costikyan, the lead designer for Raph Koster’s upcoming unnamed sandbox MMORPG, opened up about the way games get made. (In fact, if you’re a TTG fan, you should read the comments – our TTG folks were positively squeeing about his involvement, and he even swung by to chat.) Costikyan’s now released the second half of that blog, making his way through the interaction of artists, producers, engineers, and quality assurance experts – some of the least glorious but most important roles. He echoes comments Koster’s made in the past about game development being, well, a big ol’ mess.

“Two-thirds of game projects never launch,” he says. “For a host of possible reasons; they ran out of money, the publisher lost confidence in the project, key people left, their ambitions were too large, metrics in beta were disappointing.”

“More projects get canceled than ever see the light of day. I’ve been down that road more times than I care to count. You bought a game and were disappointed with it? It happens. It’s not because the developers were incompetent, or didn’t care. I guarantee you that everyone involved in that project believed in it, at the start at least, and are heartbroken that it didn’t come out better. But game development is messy and hard. Not everything succeeds.”

He also touches on a similar topic to one raised in our comments: the idea that devs have no scruples and will do anything for “a big sack of money.”

“Are we in it for the money? Well, sure, welcome to late-stage capitalism, money is the condition of survival,” he says. “But everyone – almost everyone anyway – on a development team could make more money doing something else. Engineers could make more money at Google or Amazon. Artists could make more money in advertising. Even designers could make more money working on productivity software or something. We like to get paid, for sure, but we’re not in the game industry for that reason. We’re in the game industry because we love games. And we want to make the best game we can.”

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Toy Clown

Napyet Gaming had more to say about Playable Worlds. (I admit to laughing at the start about MoP.) xD

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Paragon Lost

lol, Bree and crew are big game journalism. hehe. Loved that opening.

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Paragon Lost

Oh, yeah. Something to read tonight before I head to bed. Thanks for the link Bree on Greg’s Part II. :)

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Gamhuin

I remember reading Greg Costikyan’s “Another Day, Another Dungeon” book and it’s sequel back in the early 90’s.
He worked on a lot of tabletop rpg’s as well. Good to see his name in the mmo industry.

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Paragon Lost

Damn, I thought my beard had been growing in well in recent years. You win! looks to be twice as thick as mine. lol I’m gonna use the motorcycle excuse for thinning mine a bit. Yeah that’s it and I’m sticking to it. :)

Greg’s good people and yep, “Another day, Another Dungeon” was a really fun read. The second one was “One Quest, Hold the Dragons”.

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Utakata

I see the narrative of existing to make money is ever becoming a disconnected and distantly strange concept for me. I can also see why people are into this, but living in a life where wealth and bottom line thinking are it’s only goals seems to be a state where only a few can really achieve, while the rest are merely there to serve their purpose in that reality. Also see: Amway thinking…

“What’s this have to with the subject at hand, Uta?”

…well since the article seem to meandering in this direction through the quotes, I thought I should add 2 cents and a pigtail to it. /shrug :)

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Bryan Correll

Sadly big gaming* understands the ‘romanticism’ of being in the game industry and uses it to underpay and overwork employees.

* You know who I mean.

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Bryan Correll

Back in my day we just called those ‘games.’

Edit: Reply to a vanished post from a Proboscis Monkey about Table Top Games.

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Utakata

I hate when he does that. :(

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Paragon Lost

Hehe, did you fall foul of one Schlag’s vanishing memes? He gets me once in a while too. lol

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Crowe

Having read this article and even attempting to google it, I have no idea what TTG means in this context.

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Paragon Lost

Table Top Game.

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angrakhan

Yeah I live in the North Texas area and there’s several game studios up here. After talking to a few actual game devs I decided I liked playing games more than I do writing games. I make way more for less work and less difficult work at that. If it’s your passion and you’re talented at it by all means go for it, but if it’s anything less than the reason you get up in the morning I’d look elsewhere for your livelihood.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

If the job you’re doing is not paying a living wage (or equivalent like stock options or bonuses) then it’s not a job but a hobby. Some people are blessed with the means to do so but very few are and certainly not the legions the gamesdev industry has chewed up and spit out.

Part of this is rampant NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome. How many bespoke engines are out there? How many engines do we really need? Once the industry evolves a common set of tools and practices dev cycles should shrink to something more manageable. Faster development means less investor cold feet reducing the failure modes to is the game fun for a population large enough for the project to be sustainable.

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Arktouros

As the person with the big sack of money comment I’ll point out it never had anything about a lack of scruples or a desire to get rich. If you look at the economics of gaming and how much various game types bring in MMOs are absolutely on the low end of everything including player numbers. No one is in MMOs because they want to get rich. My dev friend’s comment was echoing Greg’s sentiment that often times funding to develop a game (aka: a big sack of money) comes with stipulations and innovation is rarely desired because they assume making a clone of a game type will be profitable for them.

That said, developers do leave to do things that make more money. That’s why you see all these ex-developers coming off MMO studios and starting up their own mobile game studios like we’ve seen out of ex-Blizz devs and ex-Anet devs and the like. I’m sure they’re doing it for other reasons as well, such as the change of pace working on an indie/smaller scale game presents, but the fact those games have greater profitability likely is a factor as well.

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wjowski

I would argue that this isn’t a good thing. Not enough people willing to stand up for themselves and say ‘Fuck you, pay me’ when faced with horrid working conditions and low pay compared to their peers because they’re afraid of losing their ‘dream job’.

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hellodeliciousfriend

To be clear, what he’s talking about is that game development has a lower industry standard for pay compared to other industries. If you work for nonprofits you will often encounter the same thing. It’s a different issue than AAA abusive practices.