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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    Treat game developers like music performers

    Publishers treat game developers as subcontractors. Game name is a brand for them, and they hire whoever they can to develop Game Name +1. Many gamers fall for that.

    This is WRONG. You should treat game developers like music fans treat their bands: whenever a notable musician leaves, fans of his work follow him to a new band/project. Music publishers don't hire a random band to record Highway To Hell 2. Only AC/DC can do that. No one is stupid enough to fall for that. Are we, as gamers, so stupid to fall for this trick ? Just because many of us are 13-17 ?

    This is easier with music bands, because there's usually a direct 1:1 relation between a person and an instrument. You like the way instrument X sounds in some band. You check and it turns out it's played by guy Y. But you can still check the lead designer, lead programmer, writer, producer... Yes, it actually pays off to read the Credits screen ! Ignore it at your own peril.

    Translating this to game developer world:

    Command&Conquer was originally developed by Westwood Studios. Later, the developer was essentially annihilated under the EA rule. EA now hires random developers to develop every next C&C game. What happened to former Westwood members ? They founded Petroglyph Games.

    A loooong time ago Raven Software developed then highly regarded fantasy FPS games Heretic and Hexen. It had a long history of fantasy/RPG games in general. Fans kept asking Raven for another Heretic or Hexen for years. It didn't make sense. Almost all developers of Hexen and Heretic now work in HumanHead Studios.

    Fans expected a lot from Heroes of Might and Magic 5 and 6. They shouldn't. Heroes 1-4 were developed by New World Computing. The team is now dispersed, and Heroes5&6 were made by Nival and Black Hole. Not even the same developer, let alone the same people.

    Diablo I and Diablo II were developed by Blizzard North. "Diablo" III is developed by Blizzard Irvine. Follow the creators of Diablo II instead:
    http://www.mobygames.com/game/diablo-ii

    Follow individual game developers, not game titles. Game title is just a label.
    Last edited by b0rsuk; 28-04-2012 at 07:58 AM.

  2. #2
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    It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it's applicable to games as they tend to be produced by a much larger group of people. And those people don't appear in their own work.
    - If the new Red Hot Chili Pepper's album is made by Green Day then that'd be pretty obvious from the videos and live shows.
    - If the new Diablo is made by Blizzard East instead of Blizzard west, that's not really noticeable without doing some research... Even if it's made by Studio Z instead of Team X that's only really noticeable in a small logo.

    Small teams developing small indie games are likely to have more of an impact on their game, but large teams making large commercial games aren't likely to have much impact... nor are individual artists or producers. And the name of a previously successful team/developer/producer isn't any guarantee of anything in most cases.

    Games are probably closer to movies in this respect... and while most movie goers might know a few high profile directors or actors, they aren't likely to know the cinematographer or production designer.

    Personally, I feel that online game geeks tend to place too much faith in particular studios or developers... they believe that they have a lot more impact than I think they really do.

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus jnx's Avatar
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    Pretty much what BillButNotBen said, but we do have some rockstars in games industry. You know, the big names. Sid Meier, Chris Taylor, Peter Molyneux, John Carmack etc.
    Twitter! Occasional impressions on random sim games.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Treat game developers like musicians?

    So, you want large publishers to use their largesse to write patently uneven contracts and effectively collect the rights to the creators' works like baseball cards, aggressively marketing them yet paying a pittance in the meanwhile?

    ...so what would be different?
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  5. #5
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    kickstarter is giving some of the credible but underfunded game devs a shot at otherwise impossible dreams and comebacks.
    Dunno what the success rate will ultimately be

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Skalpadda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    Publishers treat game developers as subcontractors. Game name is a brand for them, and they hire whoever they can to develop Game Name +1. Many gamers fall for that.

    This is WRONG. You should treat game developers like music fans treat their bands: whenever a notable musician leaves, fans of his work follow him to a new band/project. Music publishers don't hire a random band to record Highway To Hell 2. Only AC/DC can do that. No one is stupid enough to fall for that. Are we, as gamers, so stupid to fall for this trick ? Just because many of us are 13-17 ?
    "Music performers" are generally treated as little more than brand names by record labels though, and they'll hire whoever they can to perform all the production duties that aren't directly linked to the band/artist in question. Do most people look for the producer, engineer, recording studio, studio musicians or song writers of an album? I think they care far more about the names and faces that are the product brand being sold to them.

    Meh, most musicians only have two or three good albums in them anyway and I'm not so sure the rock star mentality should be something to strive for in the games industry, though arguably there are a fair few already. The indie scene has more potential for this sort of thing, but they generally don't have publishers anyway.
    Last edited by Skalpadda; 28-04-2012 at 08:52 AM.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Voon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnx View Post
    Pretty much what BillButNotBen said, but we do have some rockstars in games industry. You know, the big names. Sid Meier, Chris Taylor, Peter Molyneux, John Carmack etc.
    The Houser brothers

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    Command&Conquer was originally developed by Westwood Studios. Later, the developer was essentially annihilated under the EA rule. EA now hires random developers to develop every next C&C game. What happened to former Westwood members ? They founded Petroglyph Games.
    Uh, Westwood were closed because they were seen as a financial failure after a few dud releases. And no, a number stayed with EA and went into/formed/were merged with (I forget which) EA Los Angeles. Only a few went to form Petroglyph, and their success is moderate.

    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    Fans expected a lot from Heroes of Might and Magic 5 and 6. They shouldn't. Heroes 1-4 were developed by New World Computing. The team is now dispersed, and Heroes5&6 were made by Nival and Black Hole. Not even the same developer, let alone the same people.
    That's because 3DO cut most of NWC when they (3DO) experienced financial issues, and then a year or so later filed for bankruptcy, and Ubisoft picked up the license.

    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    Diablo I and Diablo II were developed by Blizzard North. "Diablo" III is developed by Blizzard Irvine. Follow the creators of Diablo II instead:
    http://www.mobygames.com/game/diablo-ii
    Wow, you're saying people on teams change? Did you know Blizzard North doesn't exist now? Like... it closed seven years ago.

    Anyway, you know what'd happen if we treated devs like performers?


  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    Command&Conquer was originally developed by Westwood Studios. Later, the developer was essentially annihilated under the EA rule. EA now hires random developers to develop every next C&C game. What happened to former Westwood members ? They founded Petroglyph Games.
    Ironically, nothing they've done has really had the same impact as Command and Conquer or Red Alert. I think one of the things we need to remember is that past performance, while an indicator of future performance, isn't the sole defining point. If you really want to take this analogy even further you might say that the devs that take up the mantle are "cover bands" in a way; we know it's not the original because the gaming media/fanboys will pounce on it, but that doesn't always mean it's terrible.

    I'd argue that forcing particular franchises to stay with a single dev can actually lead to more harm. I'll use the X series as an example. It's always been in the hands of Egosoft, which is okay, but they've managed to get the series stuck in a GUI nightmare where every attempt at improvement continually fails to address the core problem that the UI is based on the very first game in the series and is severely outdated. Fortunately they seem to have figured that out and will change it in Rebirth. Or so we're told.

    Likewise new developers can come in and completely destroy the fundamental principles of the game, or they can modify them with new ideas while staying true to core values. That argument can also work for the franchise staying with one group but only if it keeps generating new ideas and remains flexible, not overly rigid.

    Anyway, point being that I'm not really seeing any real benefit here at all. Actually I'm not seeing much of a difference except that developers themselves only own the title to the games they produce instead of the publishers. Also some sort of presumption that if it stayed with the original developers they'd only ever churn out gold, which is nonsense.

    Quote Originally Posted by jnx View Post
    Pretty much what BillButNotBen said, but we do have some rockstars in games industry. You know, the big names. Sid Meier, Chris Taylor, Peter Molyneux, John Carmack etc.
    John Romero. And we all know how that turned out.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    With rock star mentality, you at least get some responsibility and proper atribution. Not some Bioware Victory which is actually someone you've never heard about.

    I'm not saying it's easy to track the most influential people, but you should try anyway. The alternative is being disinformed by game publishers, and buying crappy games.

    - If the new Diablo is made by Blizzard East instead of Blizzard west, that's not really noticeable without doing some research... Even if it's made by Studio Z instead of Team X that's only really noticeable in a small logo.
    I'll make it so obvious a retard in a hurry will notice it. Diablo 2:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBXz_...feature=relmfu

    Game A:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLdjOyoUr5U

    Game B:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQjw19IxB7Y

    Which of these is more like Diablo ? Game A or Game B ?

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Rii's Avatar
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    I think the example of Blizzard actually runs counter to the argument that we should consider development teams as isolated entities in their own right. Consider: Blizzard's games tend to exhibit similar strengths and weaknesses, despite having been developed by different teams within Blizzard. For example, they all tend to be noted for their superb 'gamefeel'.

    We can account for much of this by noting that the team divisions at Blizzard aren't exactly set in stone: some folks (like Metzen) contribute to multiple projects simultaneously, and others switch from one project to another as necessary. These are certainly pieces of the puzzle. Yet I would suggest that a further piece of the puzzle is that Blizzard as an overrarching entity influences its constituent development teams (and their constituent members) such that one could not excise the part (team) from the whole (Blizzard) and produce the same output.

    The example of Rare when cut adrift from Nintendo might be useful here also, for those inclined to accept the assumptions underlying it.

    I think the OP raises an interesting (and important!) notion, and there are certainly auters in gaming (e.g. Hideo Kojima) but as others have noted there are compelling objections to such notions, or at least to taking them too far. I don't think you're going to find a simple answer here.
    Last edited by Rii; 28-04-2012 at 09:51 AM.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    Yeah i think sometimes long running franchises should be given to different people sometimes. Basically the Harry Potter effect, sometimes youll get a Chris Columbus but also sometimes youll get the guy who direcyed the third one, or Davod Yates. Which are much better.

    The problem is the publisher, even if you got a great dev sometimes a publisher will ruin their work by demanding a different thing.

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus coldvvvave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    You should treat game developers like music fans treat their bands
    Hating on the latest record while praising obscure demo stuff? Sure it's exactly like that already.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Skalpadda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    With rock star mentality, you at least get some responsibility and proper atribution.
    Proper attribution is actually pretty rare in the music industry and an awful lot of rock/pop stars have rather little to do with what ends up on their albums.

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    I keep throwing my underwear at Gabe Newell but he hasn't taken me backstage yet.
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
    http://playingitwrong.wordpress.com/

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coldvvvave View Post
    Hating on the latest record while praising obscure demo stuff? Sure it's exactly like that already.
    Strawman - you're misrepresenting my stance. And you quote out of context.

    Proper attribution is actually pretty rare in the music industry and an awful lot of rock/pop stars have rather little to do with what ends up on their albums.
    By attribution I mean "this track has great percussion because guy X played percussion", "This track has great vocals because Y was the vocalist", "This track has great riffs because guy Z played guitar."

    I think it's important to understand individual people make games - and in case of lead designers, producers, programmers their impact is very significant. A game won't become great just because it's called Heroes of Might and Magic, no matter what math suggests:
    heroes_frac.gif
    Expect things from people, not from titles.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    Not some Bioware Victory which is actually someone you've never heard about.
    Except people tend not to care about the staff, more the end product. You ask most WoW/Starcraft players who's the head writer, and most won't be able to tell you, but they'll be able to tell you Blizzard made the game.

    But us, in communities like RPS? We know at least some of the people. We know BioWare Victory's project, C&C Generals 2, involves none other than Jon Van Caneghem, a name who means little to those who don't play games like Disciples, HoMM, King's Bounty and so on, or even the Might & Magic games. To us, that matters. To most? It doesn't.

    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    I'm not saying it's easy to track the most influential people, but you should try anyway. The alternative is being disinformed by game publishers, and buying crappy games.
    Because devs don't make crappy games as it is? Lionhead had some great games, but it doesn't stop Fable 3 being a massive disappointment.


  18. #18
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    PS/ I'm not saying game developers shouldn't be treated better, or that they don't put heart into their work. (and some of the gaming superstars could be compared to top movie directors). But for a lot of guys working on the game/movie it's just a job.

    Even if you look at music, most people don't follow producers or song-writers. Producers can often have a huge effect on the final sound, and many band's songs, music or lyrics are written by third parties. But we don't follow them... mainly because it's too much hard work to keep track of.
    Bands also often change line-up... but it doesn't always have a big effect on output. Or sometimes it does... it's very hard to quantify what was the defining element or person that made a work great.

    Finally, for games I don't think the producer or studio is a great indicator of quality. Many great games were made by studios who had previously only made junk. Many makers of great games have since made junk.

    The only real rockstar developer is John Romero. Nuff said...

    PPS/ This got interrupted in it's writing and most of it therefor got ninja'd :-(

  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Rii's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillButNotBen View Post
    Finally, for games I don't think the producer or studio is a great indicator of quality. Many great games were made by studios who had previously only made junk. Many makers of great games have since made junk.
    This is another good point. Game developers are not so good at introspection. They might make a game which is praised for X and rightfully be really chuffed about that, yet not have a clear grasp of how exactly X came about, and not notice during the development of a sequel that it is no longer there.

    I suspect that these are common problem for any cooperative endeavour. It's noteworthy that the closest analogue we have to the games industry, film, tends to have processes that are far more rigorously defined. The production processes (at least for mainstream games) have certainly evolved in this direction compared to ten or twenty years ago (which may or may not be a good thing) but remain very much their own thing.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillButNotBen View Post
    PS/ I'm not saying game developers shouldn't be treated better, or that they don't put heart into their work. (and some of the gaming superstars could be compared to top movie directors). But for a lot of guys working on the game/movie it's just a job.
    Then why would they put up with 12 hours/day (and longer) crunches for months ? For every "it's just a job" person in game industry there are several enthusiasts ready to take his place. Game development job is glamorous for young males, so they're willing to put up with abuse and ridiculous contracts.

    Even if you look at music, most people don't follow producers or song-writers. Producers can often have a huge effect on the final sound, and many band's songs, music or lyrics are written by third parties. But we don't follow them... mainly because it's too much hard work to keep track of.
    I'd say it's because of ignorance. We don't know how important each of these positions are. At least I don't know what exactly does a music producer do.


    The only real rockstar developer is John Romero. Nuff said...
    In a quite literal sense. However, John Carmack consistently delivers high quality code. id games are renowned for being solid, and Rage is only the first black spot on their reputation.

    Many people liked Painkiller 1. Painkiller 2 tried very hard to reach the same goal, and failed. Meanwhile Hard Reset is much more like it, although short. No surprise - Flying Wild Hog has former People Can Fly members.

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