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  Great games: from independent or large studios?  (Read 4458 times)
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Offline Preston

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Medals: 4



« Posted 2003-08-08 16:01:18 »

Maybe we could list a few impressive (and/or successfully) computer games of the last decades (or so) here, and try to figure out who actually "invented" them: small(er) independant game developer studios, or the big ones? Or both of them?
What could we Java game developers learn of it?

Ok, this may be difficult because one could differ on what's "impressive".

The thread's been inspired by the one named "Understanding SUN", see http://www.java-gaming.org/cgi-bin/JGNetForums/YaBB.cgi?board=announcements;action=display;num=1059769246

Postscript: The purpose of this thread is to figure out which theory is more true. In short:
1) Are the small independent game studios the ones who bring creative, new and fresh computer and video games to us?
2) Are the big studios the ones who do this?
3) Both?

In the above mentioned SUN-Thread Jeff takes the first theory IMHO. I quote one of his main points:
Quote
Where we still see such creativity is mostly in relatively small independent efforts that do one thing and do it different and new.  (Take a look at Doom again
[...]
I fully expect the really new design ideas to come from the same place new film ideas do-- low budget productions.  Every so often one of those will "hit" a new concept so squarely that it will make a ton of money (like Doom did.)  The creators will get treated like rock-stars, offered big budgets, and disappear into the mill of studio productions where they will be expected to do the same thing over and over again... until the NEXT great garage guys come along.


Blahblahblahh did tend to take the second theory IMHO. I try to quote his main point:
Quote
Beg to differ. There's some pretty amazing stuff coming out of large and/or in-house groups these days. They tend to be better funded, better supported (they are understood and looked-after by their publisher, because of their size and/or track-record), have the best people (indies can rarely attract top talent for anything but a few key positions).
Sure, there are plenty like I've just described that are too cozy, and have no "hunger" left to be really creative or exciting. But AFAICS most people in this industry are always "hungry" because of their own obsessions with building games.


If we take a closer look at the really impressive games in the past, we could figure out which theory does fit - or if both theories are true.
Offline Mojomonkey

Senior Duke




ooh ooh eee eeee


« Reply #1 - Posted 2003-08-08 16:10:55 »

Not sure if I'm understanding the topic correctly, but here's my input...

First game I remember really being in to and loving was Bard's Tale on the Comodore 64. I think Interplay put it out.

I also loved Zork by Infocom, the original Quest series (King's, Space, etc) from Sierra.

Right now, I'm completely hooked and addicted to Knights Of the Old Republic. God, I love that game.

Don't send a man to do a monkey's work.
Offline Markus_Persson

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Medals: 16
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Mojang Specifications


« Reply #2 - Posted 2003-08-08 16:23:22 »

Great ones:

Doom
Dune 2
UFO: Enemy Unkown


Bad ones:

Die Hard - Nakatomi Plaza
Splinter Cell (I  know people loved it, but I absolutely hated it. WAAAY too linear.)

Play Minecraft!
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Offline swpalmer

JGO Coder


Exp: 12 years


Where's the Kaboom?


« Reply #3 - Posted 2003-08-08 16:23:34 »

I liked the Lamasoft games on the C64.  And the original Ultima games of back then.

Off topic, for those who loved Infocom games:
telnet eldorado.elsewhere.org
login as zork no password

Offline tortoise

Junior Duke




<3 Shmups


« Reply #4 - Posted 2003-08-08 16:39:43 »

I'm not entirely sure I follow the subject either, but I'll try.

What about Ikaruga? Great example of a small developer, on a tight budget with a small team pretty much breaking all barriers. It's a truly fantastic game, has sold far more than anyone expected (it's NCS's best selling game of all time), and was deemed successful enough to both receive a gamecube port and a US release. This game received no real ad campaign or really any marketing budget to speak of, just all word of mouth. I think it's a great model for what smaller games can strive for.

If I understand correctly, Rollercoaster Tycoon has a similiar (and even more successful) story.

Offline Mojomonkey

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« Reply #5 - Posted 2003-08-08 16:50:53 »

I rather enjoyed Splinter Cell. Damn.  Embarrassed

If the linearity bothered you, have you tried Hitman 2? Pretty impressive in the number of solutions to any given mission.

Don't send a man to do a monkey's work.
Offline Markus_Persson

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« Reply #6 - Posted 2003-08-08 16:52:47 »

I have, and it's excellent. The later levels are kind of insanely hard though, so I haven't finished it yet. =)

Play Minecraft!
Offline Preston

Senior Duke


Medals: 4



« Reply #7 - Posted 2003-08-08 17:03:24 »

The purpose of this thread? :-)  I tried to make it more clear by editing my first posting. Please see the "postscript" section in the above article.
Offline Mojomonkey

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ooh ooh eee eeee


« Reply #8 - Posted 2003-08-08 17:11:27 »

So, basically: What makes a good game?

I doubt you can distill that into a nice function.

For instance, there are great games that innovated:

Doom (FPS), Dune 2(RTS), Wizardry(RPG), etc. All great.

Then there are great games that refined a genre:

Halflife(FPS), Warcraft 2(RTS), Baldur's Gate(RPG), etc.

Then there are great games that gave more of the same but changed up the formula:

Unreal Tournament(FPS), Red Alert(RTS), Icewind Dale(RPG), etc.

Then there are those that came out of left field with no distinct genre but produced something great and was a successful but usually is just a fad:

Dance Dance Revolution, Pokemon (although not looking like a fad).

Now, many will argue some of the games I mentioned sucked for them, but I'd say you can't argue they weren't successful or defined a change in the industry.

My main point, is the game industry is a ever changing entity and I'd say it'd be very difficult if not impossible to figure out what makes a successful game.


However! If I were to say what makes a great game... I could give you one answer... TIMING.

Edit: regarding big companys vs. small companies... I'd say all the above games were put together by *smaller* groups and produced by large companies.

Don't send a man to do a monkey's work.
Offline Markus_Persson

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« Reply #9 - Posted 2003-08-08 17:18:41 »

I very much disagree about timing making a good game. That's a very strange thing to say.

No matter when they released Daikaitana, it still would've sucked. If they released  Doom now, it would still kick ass.

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Offline tortoise

Junior Duke




<3 Shmups


« Reply #10 - Posted 2003-08-08 17:23:09 »

Quote

1) Are the small independent game studios the ones who bring creative, new and fresh computer and video games to us?
2) Are the big studios the ones who do this?


It's not that easy. I could name off a couple dozen excellent and innovative games from smaller companies, and just as many from the big guns. Whether a company takes risks or not rarely has much to do with their size.

Quote

Then there are those that came out of left field with no distinct genre but produced something great and was a successful but usually is just a fad:

Dance Dance Revolution,


6 years. Awfully long "fad" :)
(er, excuse me, one year too many there.)
Offline Mojomonkey

Senior Duke




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« Reply #11 - Posted 2003-08-08 18:13:27 »

Quote
I very much disagree about timing making a good game. That's a very strange thing to say.


What I meant, which you may still disagree, is the public has to be ready for a new genre if you are going to create a new genre. If Diakatana was released in 96 I DO believe it would have been a commercial success. If Doom was released today it wouldn't.

Quote
6 years. Awfully long "fad" Smiley

that's why I said "(although not looking like a fad)." it was meant for both games. The fad comment was meant to mean there are few copy cat games. As in doesn't create a whole new genre of games.

Don't send a man to do a monkey's work.
Offline gregorypierce

Senior Duke




I come upon thee like the blue screen of death....


« Reply #12 - Posted 2003-08-08 18:28:20 »

Risk stiffles creativity - that much is a given, but a lot of it has more to do with gme designers themselves. There are plenty of indies with little/no risk who put out cookie cutter games or games that suck. Being on a budget will irritate that situation, but if you start with crap - all the money in the world won't help you end up with something that isn't crap. It all goes back to the design.                          

http://www.gregorypierce.com

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Cause she looks like good code but she's really a hack
I think I'll run upstairs and grab a snack!
Offline gregorypierce

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I come upon thee like the blue screen of death....


« Reply #13 - Posted 2003-08-08 18:34:10 »

Quote


What I meant, which you may still disagree, is the public has to be ready for a new genre if you are going to create a new genre. If Diakatana was released in 96 I DO believe it would have been a commercial success. If Doom was released today it wouldn't.


I'll disagree with that. Diakatana was just a crappy game plain and simple. People might have been more accepting of a crappy game earlier on when there was less competition, but Diakatana was terrible altogether.

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She builds, she builds oh man
When she links, she links I go crazy
Cause she looks like good code but she's really a hack
I think I'll run upstairs and grab a snack!
Offline tortoise

Junior Duke




<3 Shmups


« Reply #14 - Posted 2003-08-08 18:42:53 »

but then there's games like Super Mario 64 and Final Fantasy 7 which are definitely not bad, but probably were more successful than they would have been normally due to good timing.
Offline Mojomonkey

Senior Duke




ooh ooh eee eeee


« Reply #15 - Posted 2003-08-08 18:56:29 »

Quote
I'll disagree with that. Diakatana was just a crappy game plain and simple. People might have been more accepting of a crappy game earlier on when there was less competition, but Diakatana was terrible altogether.


Are we discussing good/bad games or commercially successful games?

Don't send a man to do a monkey's work.
Offline Markus_Persson

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Projects: 19


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« Reply #16 - Posted 2003-08-08 19:55:41 »

Quote
If Diakatana was released in 96 I DO believe it would have been a commercial success. If Doom was released today it wouldn't.


Don't confuse technology advancement with timing. Games released today won't look like doom, and games released 12 years ago won't look like halflife 2. That has nothing to do with  good timing.. it's just natural evolution.

Play Minecraft!
Offline Preston

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Medals: 4



« Reply #17 - Posted 2003-08-08 20:19:06 »

Very interesting answers.

Quote
However! If I were to say what makes a great game... I could give you one answer... TIMING.

I think that's a good point. The timing is a very important factor. I would not say it's the most important, but one of the very important ones.

Reminds me to the motto: you've to be at the right place to the right time... :-)
Offline Preston

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« Reply #18 - Posted 2003-08-08 20:21:07 »

Quote

Are we discussing good/bad games or commercially successful games?

I would suggest to concentrate on the good/bad games.
Offline Preston

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Medals: 4



« Reply #19 - Posted 2003-08-09 06:07:30 »

My list of a few impressive games, in chronological order:
- Elite by two men (David Braben and Ian Bell).
- Tau Ceti by one man (Pete Cook).
- Tetris by two men "with love from Russia".
- Tower of Babel by one man (Pete Cook).
- Magnetic Scrolls Adventures, like Pawn, Guild, etc by a small crew, also some Infocom adventures by a small crew.
- Gods by a small crew (Bitmap Brothers).
- Alien Breed by a - formerly - small team (Team17).
- Another World & Flashback by a small crew.
- Lemmings I & II by a small dev team but larger publisher.
- Super Mario World (Snes) by Nintendo.
- Super Metroids III (Snes) by Nintendo.
- Spacequest click'n walk adventure series by a larger dev team (Sierra).
- Rollercoaster Tycoon by a few men but published by a large publisher.
- Ground Control by a small Swedish crew.
- Jedi Outcast by a large crew (Ravensoft for Lucasarts, with ID's Quake3-engine).
- And some more...

Two observations:
a) Formerly the dev teams have been much smaller, because I think the games have been smaller. Interestingly this didn't put down the game's fun. I don't say however that today we should just have smaller games.
b) the newer games usually have been published by large publishers. Probably this is due to the expensive advertisement and more (like Jeff said in the other thread: "film analogy"). Maybe with independent publishers it is different?
Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #20 - Posted 2003-08-09 14:25:40 »

Quote

Is there a market for smaller games today?
Is it possible to "make" a genius game? Or do you have to wait until the "great idea" comes to mind and then you make a game?
Is a great game an art, a product, or both? :-)

[/quote]

I could list the relevant answers for you almost by rote - but it's much more useful (to you) if you track down the previous debates and get to see all that was said and why.

I'm not singling you out here, but to be honest, this is why I was never keen on a game-design area on JGO - this is a topic that has been discussed in detail several times over, and if anyone's interested in the answers (and the new unanswered questions they generate), they really ought to go to the relevant places for these discussions. Places like the games-development mailing lists over on Sourceforge. Can't remember the URL's, but should be easy to find....a couple are run by Brian Hook (ex id-Software) IIRC.

The major point is that I see few mainstream games developers here on JGO. OTOH, the SF lists are full of pro games devs (even if lurking or only reading indirectly, via a company-feed), and they're a friendly bunch. And there's other places like that too, where mainstream developers hang out who live and breath this stuff and have lots of additional thoughts etc to add. If you want to discuss stuff like this, you should go there, because you'll find lots of people who know a lot about it (though of course that doesn't necessarily mean they're right Wink). Here on JGO there's only a few (inevitably leads to fairly one-sided conversations - simply because there's only a small number of perspectives from people with first-hand experience/knowledge), and so most people are just theorising, rather than adding new information.

What's the point in having this conversation here, when you could instead have it with the involvement of EA's employees, and Blizzard's, and...etc ?

Kevglass's post about improving the design of a game he already had clearly broke new ground, and led to the forming of this Topic. Now the topic's moving back towards chat about game-design in general. Whilst that's quite fun, it's producing a very low signal-to-noise ratio.

Right, sorry about that. I'll get off my soapbox now. Smiley

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline gregorypierce

Senior Duke




I come upon thee like the blue screen of death....


« Reply #21 - Posted 2003-08-09 14:32:21 »

Quote
but then there's games like Super Mario 64 and Final Fantasy 7 which are definitely not bad, but probably were more successful than they would have been normally due to good timing.


SM64 was just a good game and in fact a game that spawned its on subgenre of games. Final Fantasy 7 was simply the best RPG available with excellent production values. It was just a high quality game. FF7's popularity has more to do with the strength of the franchise coupled with being a good game. No Final Fantasy game has ever sold less than a million units here in the states - so that should say something Smiley

http://www.gregorypierce.com

She builds, she builds oh man
When she links, she links I go crazy
Cause she looks like good code but she's really a hack
I think I'll run upstairs and grab a snack!
Offline Preston

Senior Duke


Medals: 4



« Reply #22 - Posted 2003-08-09 16:05:27 »

Quote
I could list the relevant answers for you almost by rote - but it's much more useful (to you) if you track down the previous debates and get to see all that was said and why.

Well, thanks for the anwer; I've just deleted my above paragraph, let's forget about it. Too general question(s) indeed.

Back to the topic. :)  The answers I've seen so far are interesting IMHO because the discussion could show if it's an option to delve into "Java game programming" which currently means on a "small independant basis", or forget about it.
Offline gregorypierce

Senior Duke




I come upon thee like the blue screen of death....


« Reply #23 - Posted 2003-08-09 16:34:17 »

Quote

The answers I've seen so far are interesting IMHO because the discussion could show if it's an option to delve into "Java game programming" which currently means on a "small independant basis", or forget about it.


Technology is a tool - publishers for the most part really don't care which you use unless they really want/need a console SKU. So the technologies you choose shouldn't really matter. Heck there have been retail games made that ran entirely in Macromedia Shockwave. If a certain technology works for you and yields a product - unless you don't try to sell it, chances are there is someone out there who will buy it (publisher wise). So many developers burn out their energy in Java vs C++, PC vs Console, DirectX vs OpenGL, Less Filling vs Tastes Great - that they never actually make anything.

99.9% of everyone here will fall into the small independent category and if they did their game in C/C++ they'd still fall into that category. Your choice of technology won't change that. I know quite a few startup studios who own copies of NDL and Renderware and they spent a lot of money to have the latest and greatest and they have produced nothing as well.

Technology is just a tool, its what you make with it that has any relevance. If Doom3 was written in Perl I'm sure it would sell just the same. Vampire Masquerade used Java. Alien Flux uses Java and there are other games that use Java. Technology usage is just not a selling point to the consumer. It is either a good game or it isn't. Consumers will do what it takes to make sure they can play the games they want to play. I know quite a few people now who have installed JRE1.4.2 just to play around with Wurm Online where they would otherwise not even have bothered having Java installed. In fact if my statistics serve, Limewire (P2P client) has caused more client side installs of Java than any other single piece of consumer software.

What this forum really needs to be focussed on is how to make better games - games that are fun and games that people want to play. Waste your energies there as that's the only thing that matters.

Hopping off soap box Smiley

http://www.gregorypierce.com

She builds, she builds oh man
When she links, she links I go crazy
Cause she looks like good code but she's really a hack
I think I'll run upstairs and grab a snack!
Offline Preston

Senior Duke


Medals: 4



« Reply #24 - Posted 2003-08-09 17:29:10 »

Quote

So the technologies you choose shouldn't really matter.

They should. Because I'm new to Java and OpenGL I don't know the answer yet. So I'm reading and writing here in order to find it out. I think it's exciting if it would be technically possible to develop a game in such a nice language/system/platform like Java. Well then, the discussions on topics like "Java compared to C++" and others on JGO are interesting to me, because so far they showed my that you actually should be able to do a game in Java which is comparable to the speed of C++. Shouldn't it? Since I can't judge this on my own yet, I've to learn these basics from somewhere. :-)

A nice Sunday to you all.
Offline Breakfast

Senior Duke




for great justice!


« Reply #25 - Posted 2003-08-11 20:24:22 »

I think the independance of a games studio is maybe a bit of an irrelevance- I think the important thing is who is in charge- is it a gamer/designer/developer or is it an accountant/marketing type? It seems to me that the games that innovate are the ones where the people in charge care about games rather than income.

I work just up the road from where Bullfrog used to be based before EA bought them out and they were a classic example of the creative game development company turning out successful but innovative and quirky games.  When they were bought out, the new owners were only interested in making sequels to previous successful games (notably Theme Park and Theme Hospital) rather than making the most of the talent available to them. The developers became increasingly disillusioned and the majority of them left to join other companies (notably Lionhead, but there are quite a few other small development companies around town)  where they were able to create rather than following the spreadsheet.
Offline gregorypierce

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I come upon thee like the blue screen of death....


« Reply #26 - Posted 2003-08-12 01:13:32 »

Quote
I think the independance of a games studio is maybe a bit of an irrelevance- I think the important thing is who is in charge- is it a gamer/designer/developer or is it an accountant/marketing type? It seems to me that the games that innovate are the ones where the people in charge care about games rather than income.




The games that innovate are those that are written by people who innovate. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the person in charge is fiscally responsible. Since I would do great harm in naming companies I won't but there are plenty companies that are fiscally responsible that make innovative content and quite a few that are out of business because they weren't fiscally responsible. I can go into the gaming forum of just about any site and find 90% of the games being designed are derivatives of other games. There isn't anything particularly wrong with that - it just serves as an example, not everyone is an innovator - that's just not the way of the world.

Most games I've seen recently are just improvements on existing formulas. Nothing wrong with that - they make money, but everyonce in a while a Homeworld or HalfLife comes along. Truly innovative games are rare. Not everyone is a good designer and not everyone can innovate. Whether or not you're independent or fiscally responsible has absolutely nothing to do with your creative process. A truly innovative game will stand out in a crowd. Go to 2 or 3 E3s in a row and look for games that truly stand out. Go to GDC and talk to developers and do the same. I used to do this for year after year after year and to be honest there are just few innovative ideas out there.

http://www.gregorypierce.com

She builds, she builds oh man
When she links, she links I go crazy
Cause she looks like good code but she's really a hack
I think I'll run upstairs and grab a snack!
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