Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 16, 2013
Steve Peterson (designer of the original Champions RPG, among other things) explains how the old models for game development (and game design) are now all but obsolete, and must change with the times:
This is pretty much ancient history for most of the folks reading this blog, I imagine. I was starting to get a heads-up about how unsustainable it was back in 1999, for crying out loud, but I grossly underestimated just how much inertia (and room for growth) remained in the system. It seems that the AAA industry, while flirting with the possibilities for several years, is finally cluing in to the fact that the old way, which has led to $50+ million budget games brawling it out in the marketplace with a winner-takes-all mentality – is just not going to fly anymore. At least not at its previous scale.
One key point: “It all comes down to design, in the end. Designers have become used to designing to the form dictated by retail sales, and they have to break out of that mold when the realities of the marketplace change.”
This is something I’m wrestling with, as well. The kind of games I want to make are heavily influenced by a particular model that I most enjoy — very ‘productized’ single-player games. Fire & Forget, a complete game from start to finish, heavy on the strong narrative. These days, it seems like a popular path to success is to sell your game piecemeal, leaving it open-ended and replayable enough so that more pieces can be added (or finished) as you go. The kind of games I want to make don’t fit well with that model. I don’t think that model is “dead,” but it does make me wonder what else I could be doing to modernize it or improve upon it. One of the wonderful things about being indie is that the world of game development has been constantly changing and expanding. There are countless possibilities out there now that didn’t exist when I got my start.
The thing is, the games need to be designed around their distribution / monetization approach from the get-go. This was true in the arcade days – games were designed specifically around the coin-op model. Where we fail is where we adhere dogmatically to the form games took under a previous model – because it is something that we loved – without addressing the needs of the current marketplace. That’s where we end up with guys trying to be “nice” on the iPhone market and losing money because of it. I think the indie / digital distribution world has plenty of room for a ‘nice guy’ approach to succeed (look at Dwarf Fortress, for example). But you can’t just force a square-peg game designed for one model to fit in a different distribution model and assume all will be well. But I do think that things are open enough and ripe enough for innovation now that there are dozens of different approaches – some new, some old – that COULD work.
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