Interview: Dragon Commander Commander

By Jim Rossignol on January 26th, 2012 at 10:30 am.


Swen Vincke is the bossman at Larian, they of the Divinity games and now ambitious Dragon Commander, and he’s taking his studio in a bold new direction: free of the publisher contract, they are going to develop and publish the game themselves. Vincke talks about this strategy – and few other issues like the real reason people said the PC was “dead” – in this wide-ranging and fascinating interview.

RPS: So you guys are self-publishing Dragon Commander. That seems like a bold move from a traditional development house like you guys. Can you explain the story behind that?

Vincke: Well, I guess that will be a long story! It’s something we wanted to do for a long time, since 2002 when we published Divinity through CDV and I discovered, to my dismay, that we didn’t earn anything on that game despite it selling quite well. After that there followed a long struggle in trying to change any single deal which we signed into one in which we would earn a little more. This struggle was inspired by visiting the big publishers and attending meetings in which I was told no one wanted to play fantasy RPGs, and so forth. To cut a long story short, what happened is that we started doing smaller deals with distributors in certain territories. We would say to a publisher: “Do you have an office in Singapore?” And they would reply “no, but we have an excellent partner”, and it happens to be that we are already talking to that partner, and so we’d do that. So we learned about publishing that way, learned about distribution, doing these deals so that we are able to build up some reserves. Now we have reached a point where those reserves are sufficiently large that we are able to say “for this next game, we do not need a publisher”. That is what happened!

RPS: You are talking about taking charge of distributing physical copies of your game around the world?

Vincke: Yes. That is because nowadays people are all talking about the indie revolution and the power of digital distribution, but retail has always been the powerbase of publishers and remains very important as a sales channel. It is still the dominant sales channel, in fact. If you do manage to get your game into stores and have a product that appeals to gamers, you will still sell more at retail than you will at digital. But obviously it is much more complicated. With digital you are able to just put it up there and get sales, but retail the process takes more work.


RPS: That’s interesting, because the people we tend to speak to these days are pretty much relying on digital systems like Steam to publish their games, even larger studios… you think that retail is still an option, even for self-publishers?

Vincke: Of course it is! We did a deal in Germany with a local distributor for the last Divinity game and we sold more than 100,000 units in Germany alone. Convert that into revenue. That’s quite a lot of revenue.

RPS: So what sort of stage are you guys at with Dragon Commander now?

Vincke: Well… it looks horrible right now. We are doing a lot of work on the internals, so there is not a lot to look at. But everything should get integrated next few months and we’ll start showing the game again. There’s a whole bunch of stuff in there which is very unlike what we did in other games, but give us one month more to get to that.

RPS: Yes, the game does seem quite different to your previous offerings, can you explain why you went that route?

Vincke: I have this little notebook here full of game ideas that I’d like to do, and I’ve tried pitching them to publishers, several times, and I’ve never managed to get funding. Since we’ve said that we will now go completely independent it was time to take a look in the little notebook and see what we’re going to make. Out of that came Dragon Commander. It’s a blend of genres that I’ve always liked to play – my gaming education was in the Amiga times, and the C64 before that – and I remember playing this Cinemaware game, Defender Of The Crown, which was something I liked, and it was a genre that faded away. But if you put modern production values on that, and add all the innovations of the intervening years on that, then you have something appealing. And in any case I would like to play it, so we said “okay let’s bet on that”. It’s risky! I pitched it to the usual suspects and they all looked at me… suspiciously, let’s put it that way.

RPS: Are the big publishers stifling creativity? Should they take more risks?

Vincke: Ah, well. There’s a few things I can say to that. Individually, when you talk to people who work at big publishers, they are almost all people who want to do innovative, creative work. They want to take risk, but as a group they never will, because they have to be afraid of a flop title. They put their ideas in a green-light room and discuss it, and they might get individually excited by an idea, but then they discuss the downs of it, and it’s killed right there. I’ve seen it happen a couple of times. I’ve been to these meetings and pitched ideas that these companies liked, but then someone from sales says “is there something comparable on the market? How will it sell?” and then someone else asks “how are we going to market it? Who else has marketed a game like this?” and then you hear a couple of examples of new things failing, and the idea is killed on the spot.

The larger publishers think at very large scales. They want a £20m project, they don’t think that they can perhaps still spend a couple of million and get results from that. They are just not set up to think that way. The smaller publishers are set up for small projects, but then you get the downsides of them getting involved, especially if you are trying to innovate. To innovate you will require iteration, and iteration and development directors of small publishers do not work well together.


RPS: But when you look at developers taking control, you see some real successes. And the increasing number of them suggests that the publisher models are wrong. They should not being saying “what sells?” but looking more at “how can we sell?”

Vicke: I couldn’t agree more, but it’s what I see happen. I know people at every publisher after fifteen years in this business, and they regard successes like Angry Birds or Minecraft as accidents, and only then will they say “how can we replicate that?” Or take The Sims – that almost didn’t get signed because it was new. They don’t have the right reflex towards games. They do not see them as something that you might want to play. If you want to play it, then there’s a good chance a lot of other people will want to play it, but they try to quantify it purely in terms of “how are we going to sell it?” It’s fairly surreal when you see those meetings in action.

RPS: Derivative shooters obviously sell really well… does it matter that they continue to make them? What happens if the games industry doesn’t innovate? What needs to change to push games forward?

Vicke: A cliché is a cliché because has proved to be popular. People like clichés. Terry Pratchett is going to write Diskworld over and over because people like reading about it. People like elves in fantasy RPG, so they appear again and again. But at the same time I think personally that the games industry would have benefited enormously, and be ahead of where it is now, if developers were benefiting directly from the money their games were making. The traditional business model has been stifling innovation simply because the publisher has been deciding whether a game gets made, not the developer. If you then look at the revenue which is generated by these developers it is enormous… for the publisher. If you had given the developerthat money they might have said “let’s try making this crazy idea,” like Dragon Commander! For us this feels like the right thing to make. Developers are idealistic, driven by idealism, and in that sense I think that you would have had much more innovation if they benefited from their profits.

RPS: Idealism is the thing. Did your entire company share your idealism when going it alone and developing your ideal game?

Vicke: I have been very open, so my company know how I am funding the project and how we are doing everything, and I have to say that Dragon Commander is a game that was picked up enthusiastically by the team, right away. In fact it has become more about me saying “no, don’t do that, or we’ll never get it finished”. I have had to control all the ideas that the team has come up with from the premise of the game. There’s a lot of stuff we can, and that is a lot of fun.

RPS: Is the PC really seeing a renaissance? Or is it just a renaissance in perception?

Vicke: I never had the impression that the PC market had a problem. PC games have always sold. What did happen was certain territories like the UK or the US saw a decline. Other territories like Eastern Europe or Germany, you always had strong PC sales. I have a blog that I am doing, and I intend to share real numbers on there. I have noticed there is a difference between the numbers actually being sold and what is cited in the press by research firms, and that creates a false perception. When you see the actual numbers you say “wow, this is a massive industry.”

RPS: That’s because the big publishers look at the UK and the US and then ignore the rest of the world, isn’t it?

Vicke: Yes, I know that for sure because when I talk to publishers one of the reactions to my saying “there are millions of copies of Divinity out there” is “yeah, yeah, probably in Germany though!” I said “so what?” Ha! There’s still a lot of them. So what if they are in Germany? I don’t know where this idea comes from, and this idea that the PC doesn’t sell it is, in my view… well, the consoles were tremendously successful in the territories where most of the publishers based themselves, so the UK, US, and France, which meant that they almost missed what was happening in other markets. Asia, Germany, Eastern Europe, these are all strong PC markets. In Eastern Europe countries that were predominantly pirate countries have become very large markets indeed. All these factors combined were countering the stereotype that PC gaming was dying. PC gaming was only dying in the sense that if you make a game that was focused for consoles and then ported to the PC obviously it would not sell well on the PC! A PC dedicated title with a fitting budget will sell well. Also you see companies putting out games on 360, PS3, and PC, and then pointing out that their PC sales were lower, but that was often because they focused their efforts on the 360 and PS3 versions.


RPS: So you don’t see piracy as destroying the PC? I should say, actually, that the “piracy question” in interviews is a lottery now. Some people will say it’s the worst thing that could happen to games, while others see it as free advertising. The range of opinions on this is extraordinary. What’s your take?

Vicke: Well my blog entry on this got me hammered on NeoGAF! Ha, but the truth is if I had not pirated some games as a boy I would never have played them. I didn’t have the money, so I could not have seen them. It would be hypocritical of me to damn the teenagers who are pirating games! The economics have changed, of course, because you can get a lot of games for $1. In my day, the time of floppy disks, it was different. As for my thoughts on piracy… Well, which Swen are you talking to? Executive Swen will say that it is terrible, because each copied game could represent a lost sale, but then perhaps you could make the case for it being advertising. Whether it’s advertising for the game being pirates I don’t know. Perhaps for future games in the series! DRM I don’t like either. I only had wifi when I moved recently, and I wanted to play Civ 5, and it needed to be Steam activated, and couldn’t get through it because of bad wifi. It was a terrible customer experience. Of course every publisher I have ever spoken to has told me you have to have DRM. It’s not going to change, of course, but it’s not impossible to have an industry with piracy going on. People still bought LPs when you could also tape the radio. That industry was never larger.

RPS: Okay, let’s come back to you guys self-publishing Dragon Commander. Is that something you would advise other studios to do? Any tips?

Vicke: We have 40 people, so there is some cost involved. That is the primary thing. Okay, so, I wrote once that you should write a list of all the developers that went down and list what was their project, and who was their publisher… that would be a very interesting list for all developers. I think developers need to ask: What’s the point in burning through your dev budget and then making 5% or 10% profit and then not being able to continue to operate? You’re better off aiming for small projects and making sure you can get some revenue behind you, or you will never work on your own games. The other thing that I am really happy about in our current situation is this: when your game is with a publisher you cannot control the attention that is going to be given to your game. This is going to impact on both your game and your reputation as a studio. Some publishers will forces you to ship early, when sometimes just a couple of months can change from 60% to 80% scores. You will also control costs. Publishers will inflate costs and charge everything to a project. It’s horrible sometimes to see what happens to these budgets. In the end you get a better return and remind yourself why you were developing. It’s a very different life to being told what to do by publishing directors. Now that we are doing this I feel like we have freedom back. I like that. But of course I am doing it with a large team, not a garage team. That’s a risky endeavour, and you need to know what you are doing.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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60 Comments »

  1. Velvetmeds says:

    “You’re better off aiming for small projects and making sure you can get some revenue behind you, or you will never work on your own games.”

    This, right there. Many dev members need to read that many times.

    Good interview.

    inb4people hate on him for the steam’s horrible costumer experience part and miss the point

  2. Lewie Procter says:

    Pretty sensible stuff, throughout. Great interview.

    Looking forward to Dragon Commander.

    • Prime says:

      Superb interview. The absolute gold standard for any developer or publisher – speak common sense and don’t talk down to your audience who, after years of dealing with marketing-language of every flavour, have highly attuned bullshit detectors.

      Not only that but the game still looks fresh and exciting. Win win. :)

    • lightstriker says:

      “have highly attuned bullshit detectors.”

      hahah no. People are much more attuned to certain TYPES of bullshit. It is exceedingly easy to convince massive groups of people of things that are just wrong. Look at reddit, for starters.

  3. mrwout says:

    Hmmm no mention of the new RPG they’re working on. Of course there is not much known about it now, but still an RPG in the vain of th previous divinity games is always welcome.

    “That’s why in addition to Dragon Commander, we’re also working on an unannounced RPG (which btw is closer on the release horizon than most people think J )”

    http://www.lar.net/2012/01/16/the-route-to-the-very-big-rpg-that-will-dwarf-them-all/

  4. UnravThreads says:

    Bloody hell, it’s someone with their head screwed on.

    • Prime says:

      I know! I…I’m frightened. Hold me.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      It’s OK Optimus, It’s ok. All will be well with the universe now. Have an energon cookie.

  5. TailSwallower says:

    Seems odd that he’s putting so much faith in Retail when by all accounts retails seems to be dying a slow death. Self-publish for sure, but don’t invest too heavily in retail for your own sake…

    It’s also odd that he mentions that “In Eastern Europe countries that were predominantly pirate countries have become very large markets indeed” when the only place we’ve heard that before is from Gaben who was talking about digital distribution, not retail, so it seems to go against his earlier point.
    Gaben seemed to think that making games well-priced compared to average wages, etc, is what made games start selling well in Russia, but if you’re selling retail then you’re making the game more expensive because the distributors and retailers need to take a cut.

    Anyway, hope it works out for them, ’cause I want to see developers make innovative games and flourish without the help of (out-of-touch, conservative, perhaps even parasitic) publishers.

    • Velvetmeds says:

      Isn’t Russian retail cheap as well? Those cd keys websites get most their copies from there, sell them cheap (to our standards) and still manage to make a profit

    • mrwout says:

      I don’t know, I’ve heard mixed messages concerning the russian retail market. Some say games there are grossly overpriced others say they are cheaper than “in the west” to conform to the economic standards of the region. (Although now that I think of it that first one might ‘ve been about DVD prices)

    • CMaster says:

      Provided retail sells to enough people to cover your entry costs, then it’s a winner. (There’s some borderline cases relating to retails sales replacing digital sales, but we can assume that isn’t a big worry). And I’m pretty sure the likes of CDProjeckt and Blizzard will tell you that retail is pretty necessary to make a big budget PC game viable. Much like many developers do with piracy, you’re asking the wrong question. It isn’t “how much less will we make per unit with retail?”, it’s “how many more copies will retail sell?” if the answer is more than your startup costs (and if you’re doing anything other than niche, it will be) then you may as well. (For piracy, the wrong question asked is “What proportion of copies of the game will be pirated” whereas the right questions is “how many copies of this game can we sell?”)

    • Sergei Klimov says:

      We launched Divinity 2 (ED) in Russia head to head with EA’s Dragon Age.

      In the few months, we sold over 70.000 copies. That was way over what Dragon Age achieved.

      The difference?

      Divinity had local price and was made available day one, sim with worldwide release, and had an OK localization. Dragon Age was priced almost double and had a horrible localization. It all comes down to the user experience, really.

      Digital prices in Russia are 1:1 to retail prices at the moment. And yes, retail is dying off, but it will still be around for Collector’s Editions (forever) and for another 5 healthy years in general, as long as there are people with cash in their pockets who have some time to browse the shops.

    • MichaelPalin says:

      I was in Berlin last Summer. The PC games section of Media Markt and Saturn were as big as any game shop or game section of a larger shop here in Spain. Is this guy German, maybe?

    • TailSwallower says:

      I was in Russia a couple of weeks ago actually, and didn’t see any dedicated games stores, didn’t even really see any general electrical retailers… Either they just look different and so they passed under my radar, or they aren’t in the areas I spent time exploring.

      Saw a MediaMarkt in Berlin, but didn’t bother going inside… Place was huge though.

  6. Khemm says:

    “DRM I don’t like either. I only had wifi when I moved recently, and I wanted to play Civ 5, and it needed to be Steam activated, and couldn’t get through it because of bad wifi. It was a terrible customer experience.”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this! This is exactly what I have to suffer through every time I buy a Steamworks game, yet whenever I mention it, I end up being attacked by a bunch of fanatical Valve Hammer Legion Members. Maybe now they’ll finally understand my point of view.

    Thank you Mr Swen Vicke, we both know Steam DRM can be a nightmare – we’ll get ridiculed by many for daring to say bad things about it, but we are right.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stellar Duck says:

      It’s worth noting that what he berates Steam for is a problem. However, when that initial activation is complete it’s pretty solid. The same can not be said for the couple of weeks I couldn’t play AssCreed 2 due to a dodgy connection. Or the 6 months I couldn’t play Splinter Cell Chaos Theory due to StarForce. Or the shit ton of times I’ve been unable to play due to GFWL puking all over itself.

      In other words, what he is talking about is a problem not exclusive to Steam. That said, there are plenty of issues with Steam and the offline mode is… less than ace. The problems with Steam are just smaller than most other problems with DRM.

    • Khemm says:

      The AC2 problem must have happened when it was still online-only, which was a horrible idea to begin with. They later patched that requirement out, luckily.
      As for GFWL, I agree it’s a bit clunky, its problems are usually DLC related or client update related, but the installation is a smooth and hassle-free process. I never get DLCs and always get the latest GFWL exe from MS download centre. The nice thing about GFWL is you can back up patches, so that you don’t have to go online to update your games again after reinstallation.

      Steam many times downright prevented me from installing the games I have, so it’s a bigger issue from my point of view.

    • Unaco says:

      Sounds like it wasn’t a problem with Steam, but with bad wifi. Any other service or DRM or security measure that needed an online activation, even one time only, or a patch, or a driver update, would have had the same problem due to the bad wifi.

    • Khemm says:

      @Unaco
      You’re wrong. A few Securom or GFWL games I can activate on an unbelievably slow connection, because it’s a process that takes a few seconds. Steam on the other hand requires that your connection is FAST, because the installation process can take hours even! It needs to decrypt the files on DVD, if you get disconnected for a single second, Steam will cancel the installation immediately, and then there’s the requirement of downloading at least hundreds of MBs, sometimes a few GBs before you’re allowed to play.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      “Sounds like it wasn’t a problem with Steam, but with bad wifi. Any other service or DRM or security measure that needed an online activation, even one time only, or a patch, or a driver update, would have had the same problem due to the bad wifi.”

      Well yes but as steam RELIES on your internet connect then it is ALSO a problem for Steam and for customers who suffer as a result.

  7. caddyB says:

    Yay Larian!

  8. Premium User Badge

    jezcentral says:

    Terry Pratchett writes Diskworld [sic] over and over for his audience because people like cliches? Sacrilege!

    • Premium User Badge

      thekeats1999 says:

      I was going to write something similar myself. If you read the actual books they are anti-cliche.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Yeah I didn’t get that either. Pratchett, to me, comes across as satirising clichés with the Discworld series rather than pandering to them.

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      I think he was more pointing out that Pratchett *only* writes Discworld, which whilst diverse, follow a specific tone and structure, rather than criticising it for being formulaic in a ‘generic fantasy’ sense.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I thought Terry Pratchett just wrote Discworld over and over because he likes writing them. I think he’s conflating cliche with archetype, but even then Pratchett satirizes the archetype.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      Larian has worked (works?) together with Terry’s daughter Rhiana, so I don’t think he meant it maliciously at all. :-)

    • Swen Vincke says:

      >>I think he was more pointing out that Pratchett *only* writes Discworld, which whilst diverse, follow a specific tone and structure, rather than criticising it for being formulaic in a ‘generic fantasy’ sense.<<

      Spot on – Once you read a few of his books, you notice that there is a certain formula. Which is fine because it's a particular formulaI like, and I wished he could keep on doing it forever.

    • mentor07825 says:

      He has also written several other books that are not part of the Discworld series. Needless to say, his current health is a gigantic obstacle for him to write. I felt it apparent in his latest book “Snuff”

    • InternetBatman says:

      I thought Unseen Academicals suffered worse than Snuff, but yes it’s obvious that gaps are forming in his writing process and stuff is getting lost.

    • Premium User Badge

      jezcentral says:

      I thought Snuff was a return to form after Unseen Academicals. The word-play was back, and everything. Needed a certain CHARACTER WHO DIDN’T SHOW UP, though. But that’s just quibbling. I thought it was great.

  9. Asskicker says:

    Belgian Pride :D

  10. Caleb367 says:

    Jetpack dragons.

    Lemme rephrase that.

    JETPACK DRAGONS.

    I’m SO checking this out.

  11. Teronfel says:

    Great interview,i like that guy!

  12. D3xter says:

    I’m not sure if I’m interested in the Dragon game, but Divinity 2 was on my “radar” for a long while, visited Steam all ready to finally buy it after this interview, but noticed a few things.

    First, there’s “Ego Draconis” and “The Dragon Knight Saga”, I thought the Dragon Knight Saga included the first but improved it, yet it seems both are available and the 2nd is cheaper.
    Second, it says “SecuRom: 5 machine activation limit”, which is a dealbreaker for me :/

    • Torgan says:

      Divinity 2 actually got patched just yesterday on Steam which according to the user forum posts removed the Securom.

      I picked it up in the Christmas Steam sale and loved it, a bit rough around the edges here and there but I got 30 odd hours out of completing Ego Draconis and Flames of Vengeance and enjoyed it. Looking forward to Dragon Commander!

    • D3xter says:

      That’s good to hear, they should update their Steam page accordingly then though.

      Now does anyone know the difference between Steam AppID 27220 e.g. “Divinity II: Ego Draconis” that costs 50€ in Germany and AppID 58540 e.g. “Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga” that costs 40€?

      I thought the second included the first or was some sort of patched “Special Edition”? Or are they different games?

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      I thought the second included the first or was some sort of patched “Special Edition”?

      This.
      The Dragon Knight Saga is a ‘remastered’ original Ego Draconis plus the expansion “Flames of Vengeance” in one handy package. The reason Ego Draconis is ‘remastered’ is because it includes new content & is migrated to the newer engine same as the expansion.

    • Unaco says:

      Yeah, the Dragon Knight Saga is the one you want to pick up. As people have said, it’s the original + expansion, all on the nice & shiny new(er) engine. I would recommend grabbing the demo before you put any money down (there’s one available on Steam). It does have a certain charm… It’s great hearing regional British dialects from the Voice acting, Welsh, Scouse, Geordies, etc. Is quite endearing. Some of the dungeons and the touches in them are great as well… some of them feel very tense, and they definitely feel like long abandoned Tombs and Crypts.

      However… The Combat is absolutely atrocious. Abominable. In my opinion anyways. The very worst sort of 1-button bashing I’ve seen. YMMV, but it was a killer for me. Also, the regions/areas feel quite claustrophobic, limited.

      I got it 50% off in the Steam Christmas sale 2010, put 6 hours in, then put it aside. Is a shame… looked like it might have something decent to offer, but I just couldn’t bring myself to play through it. Others may disagree… and, if you can get through the combat, it might hit your buttons. But I do recommend trying the demo first.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      on the contrary, i quite like the combat. it’s deeper than it appears at first (it is a game that requires you to put a few hours in), and can get quite hectic with multiple enemies.

    • skocznymroczny says:

      You can download a no drm patch for Dragon Knight Saga BTW

  13. Premium User Badge

    Rinox says:

    Jim and Mrwout already linked to it, but Swen’s personal blog is a very interesting place where he talks about all the things in the interview and more. The ‘strangest’ thing from the blog is that he genuinely talks like a gamer who is running a company, not like a manager who is making games. It’s heartwarming. :-)

    http://www.lar.net/

    Great interview btw!

    EDIT: gems like these

    ‘On one particular night, I helped a marketing director earn back the money he wasted in a casino, not realizing that it was actually part of my marketing budget.’

  14. Drake Sigar says:

    Europe and Russia offer some fantastic games, and this looks to be one of them.

  15. Nethlem says:

    I like this guy.. never heard of him or his game before but now i really really like him and his game.
    Finnaly somebody with industry knowledge who doesn’t pretend that only customers are the problem.

    But it still makes me angry that when gamers make the same observations about these markets (regarding PC gaming a few years ago) they mostly get told off as having “no clue” while they actually have been right all along.

    These huge publishers and their corporation overlords are the worst thing that happened to gaming, their logic and thinking goes contrary to anything that should be important for such an creative and nimble industry as making games.

  16. rustybroomhandle says:

    I am reminded of when people mention the 80s video game crash. What they actually mean is ‘in America’. As I remember it, the 8-bit home computer game market was booming elsewhere.

  17. wodin says:

    Aha someone who talks sense…a refreshing change…

  18. Premium User Badge

    Makariel says:

    I like that guy. And I like dragons with jetpacks. That game is on my watchlist!

  19. MadTinkerer says:

    Regarding piracy: I don’t pirate games anymore because it’s too expensive. Playing games for free runs the risk of me buying a copy, and I have too large a backlog of legit games I’ve already bought.

    I do know other people who never bother getting legit copies even though they could afford to buy them, but they also all have terrible taste anyway. Publishers: trust me, you’re better off without those dopes.

    Fun fact: we were on the fence about Pokemon when it first came out, so I decided to pirate Pokemon Yellow to try it because there was no demo. My family now owns at least one copy of every kind of Pokemon game. As I said, it’s just too expensive to keep downloading illegal copies…

  20. Premium User Badge

    Faldrath says:

    Excellent interview, and it’s really interesting how much his comments about the state of the gaming industry remind me of the music industry in the late 60s/early 70s, when it became big business and the relationship between artists and managers changed really quickly.

  21. Wizlah says:

    This actually makes me want to pick up the Dragon Knight Saga, just because a) I’m interested in what they may do differently and b) it’s good to support such a sensible company.

    It’s been good reading these interviews back to back with Ken Levine. Both guys are still talking about the problems facing you when you want to make YOUR game and vision, not someone elses. But the problems facing them are so different. It’s been very illuminating.

  22. Tuco says:

    NeoGAF always had an oversensitive stance on piracy.
    But someone has to face it sooner or later: there’s no effective way to combat piracy. And fighting piracy apparently never translates in more sales.
    Ironically the problem with PC sales wasn’t piracy, it was the raising popularity of consoles that drove away a large chuck of the developers, and then of the core gamers, from that market (even if the tendency is inverting now and the PC digital market is growing faster than ever).

    Of course, lot of people in the industry look at download numbers on PC and they may think “That’s scary, we are losing a lot of money here”, but recent statistics suggest that in the industrialized world many “pirates” are in fact far more active customers than the average.
    It’s also worth noting that, always according to these reports, many of these pirates already spend pretty much all they can realistically afford in consumer goods, no one is hoarding the money he’s saving with piracy.
    Which essentially means that even in a hypothetical scenario where you could stop them from downloading illegal stuff, all you could hope to achieve would be to make them spend roughly the same amount of money in a slightly different way.

    Long story short: your software having poor sales could have more to do with you having an ineffective way to attract customers, to give them value for their money and to gain their loyalty than with people eventually downloading for free your software from torrent sites.
    Pirates are not a pleasant sight for those who work in the industry, and that’s easy to understand, but they are also not very relevant, as preventing them from pirating could hardly make them magically spend more money than those they actually have.

    Very nice interview, by the way, even considering I’m not particularly sold on the physical distribution thing.
    The more I think about it, the more it sounds as a very poor system, efficiency-wise.
    you are supposed to ship copies of your product all around the world regardless of where the actual customers are, and then fight for space on the shelves.
    I’m sure successful games are profitable even in that way, but I wonder if the same can be claimed for mid-tier products.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Sadly enough, there is one very effective way to fight piracy. Make your game an MMO and store half the content server side. It takes years and years to make an effective emulator.

    • Tuco says:

      @InternetBatman: …and that has nothing to do with my post.
      Also, shifting to an entirely different genre with a way higher production cost could be hardly pointed as a anti-piracy measure for your game.
      More like an entirely different (and very stupid?) production strategy for your company.

  23. MichaelPalin says:

    I would like to make a poster in red, white and blue of the face of this guy and write “Hope” below.

  24. RagingLion says:

    Fascinating interview indeed. Thanks for bringing it to us.