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How Close Can Indies Get To AAA Games?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Assembler-Maze, May 1, 2017.

  1. Assembler-Maze

    Assembler-Maze

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    Hello everyone!

    My question is: "How close do you think that a game developed by indies can get to an AAA game from the technical and artistic point of view?" and a side-question: "Can it be done in Unity?", since we're discussing this on the Unity's forums :).

    We should not include here mobile games and cartoon-ish games but only AAA desktop/console titles.

    First of all I'll define some terms and give the references so that we're not loosing the point, and get lost in discussing the definitions of what are indies and what AAA games we take as reference :).

    The way I see things is, of course, not absolute, I just think that they are the most relevant point of view for the stated question.

    1. We shall discuss strictly from the artistic and technical point of view. I think we should not discuss about gameplay/story and promotion importance here.
    2. I think we 'could' consider indies teams of 1 - 5 members and maybe 0-3 external non-full time contractors
    3. For references we shall take:
    - 'Uncharted 4' by Naughty Dog
    - 'Battlefield 1' by EA
    - 'Start Wars Battlefront' by EA
    - 'Horizon Zero Dawn' (open world) by Guerilla

    We shall look at the following, all very well covered in the reference games:

    1. Asset quality
    - Texture quality
    - Model quality
    - How good they look up close
    2. Evironment and level design quality
    - Style and good composition
    - Diversity of design
    - Vegetation quality
    - Well populated and vibrant world. Not a barren wasteland
    3. Critter and creature quality
    3. Character quality
    4. Animation quality

    With the advancement and improvement of game engines, technology and art, along with the change in pricing plans that made possible for indies to have access to incredible tools, I think this question is very important for the future of game development :)

    That's why I invite everyone to comment and express their opinions.
     
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  2. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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  3. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Depends on what you call indie, and depend on what AAA, there was a small windows where I thought indies could match at a "lower scale" AAA, but high level AAA took a huge jump in some signifier of quality (mostly facial animation) that put them out of reach of indies. But would you consider outlast 2 indie? They are certainly small and match a low bar AAA.

    But what is signifier of quality? In old games, due to technical limitation, in order to wow the player and gave the impression of bigger scale the machine could actually achieved, dev use some trick like isolating some effect in their own space. For example megaman on nes used the big enemy sprite you had to defeat to progress using background tile to build them, bigger boss even used all the graphical resources to make screen giant enemy against a black background. In early 3D games, you have isolated room with little interactions and amazing but costly effects, round objects that blew the polygon budget just for that scene, but on the average gameplay case they were not there. Or some other tricks like spawning an enemy as soon as one is destroy to gave the illusion of more sprite than the engine can handle. This effect is further enhance with good pacing, seamless connection between hi quality zone and average zone will taint the impression of the average zone toward being better to what they are, and leave an overall impression of quality much bigger than it is actually. This has a name, it's call making set pieces.

    The thing is that modern AAA have turn set pieces from development tricks to actual heavy investment, game series like final fantasy, call of duty and uncharted seems to entire rely on set pieces polish to a tee. That's where the strain on indies start to happen, making set pieces is hard and costly, it ask the best of the best to punch boundaries in complex and sophisticated domain, and even though the knowledge trickle down, it happen after they moved on the next target. For example I believe an indie can loosely match the visual of final fantasy XV on the average gameplay cases (roaming the land) it's not easy but achievable, partly because hardware limit act like an equalizer, partly because the knowledge and tool has trickle down to hobbyist level ... But the set pieces and cinematics? they do participate in a huge part in the AAA feel of this games, they are out of reach, just talking to character like the infamous Cindy has a high quality intro that show a hi quality model with fleshy skin and perfect facial animations, even though the discussion itself use average model and animation. Indie can only have the average.

    But all is not lost, you can use the memory of the player to trick him, like in lost souls abide, a game made by one person with razor cut focus on a few model not using them outside the possible range. Using proper tone, you can stay in a range that evoke AAA quality without going into place you can't match.
     
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  4. drewradley

    drewradley

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    Have you ever wondered if you can use Unity to create a AAA game? Just ask yourself one of these simple questions:
    • Do you have a team of 100 people totally dedicated to seeing the project completed regardless of budget?
    • Do you have 10s of millions of dollars to throw at game development?
    • Do you have 100s of hours every day to work on a game all by yourself?
    If you answered "yes!" to any of those questions, you are well on your way to creating a AAA game in Unity!
     
  5. ShilohGames

    ShilohGames

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    Yes, a AAA game can be made in Unity, but not by a tiny indie. By definition, a AAA project involves pouring a lot of money and man hours into the project, so a AAA game will have a lot more content than an indie title. You need to plan on spending $50M to $150M per project to compete at the AAA level.
     
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  6. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    In terms of amount of content, it can be done with semi-procedural tools - at least that's what I'm betting on for mine. For every hour that you put into your procedural tools, the equivalent 'volume' of content should be 200 man-hours, then you can compete with the amount of content in an AAA game.

    In terms of quality, you won't be on par with latest gen stuff, not even close. But if you take characters as an example, something like Eve's character creator should be more than sufficient.

    So basically, you have to build a game-building machine, otherwise forget it. To produce the amount of content in Uncharted 4 by yourself, even if you did it in lowpoly flat color, would be a huge waste of effort even if it was possible.
     
  7. SnowInChina

    SnowInChina

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    ok, lets start off with the wiki definition of AAA-games

    "An AAA game (usually pronounced "triple A game") is an informal classification used for video games with the highest development budgets and levels of promotion. AAA game development is associated with high economic risk, with high levels of sales required to obtain profitability.


    In the mid 2010s the term AAA+ began to be used, describing AAA type games that generated additional revenue over time in a similar fashion to MMOs by using software as a service (SaaS) methods, such as season passes or expansion packs.


    The term is analogous to the film industry term "blockbuster".[1]"

    so, per definition, this will be pretty hard to achieve for indies


    but creating the same level of quality like major AAA titles is not that hard for anyone who knows what they are doing, at least art wise
    the problem is that AAA art takes a lot of time to create and therefore it would be really difficult to
    create a lot of unique assets
    but with the right game idea and clever design decissions you could compensate for that to a certain degree
    this always boils down to how skilled your team is
     
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  8. Billy4184

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    Well the OP didn't even commit the heinous crime of calling the indie product a AAA game, only the references. I think all of the games being referenced fit that bill.
     
  9. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Regarding quality, AAA assets are also highly iterated, there is a lot of waste, it's more about finding the sweep spot of "(relative) artistic" quality. Technically it's possible to do away with the iteration and decrease the cost, at the expense of coherence generally. Also there is a lot cutting edge R&D that makes building while driving, which create all sorts of problem (tool not ready, pipeline to establish, training to be made, etc ...). And to top all of that, all these system must work together seamlessly, which create it's own sort of dependency problem.

    So in theory it can be done for less cost (in fact ninja theory are trying to do that), but what can be done for less mean it will scale for more, moving the definition of AAA quality.

    We have seen indie, putting hi quality works already, rivaling with AAA in asset quality, but generally not in term of scope or number of system. The secret of Edith finch is such a game for example. However, while asset quality is not up there in term of production value, I don't expect indie to make a game like BOTW, because of the number of system and contents (unless early access lol after some years).

    Things indies will have hard time to emulate:
    - Quality voice acting across hundreds of character
    - acting and especially facial capture
    - animation in general (there is 3000 animation just for assassin's creed 3 main character)
    - big scope with high local details (can be approximate with pcg, but there is a lot of r&d to do something that have each local tell a distinct environmental story).
    - huge number of interdependent system.

    While people like to point at the budget, part of it is absorbed by tools and engine, and we can further decrease it using library. HOWEVER the more specific your idea the less likely you will find a corresponding assets in a library, and the less specific you are the less you will be notice under the flood (but that's a distinct problem than quality itself) not mentioning that these assets might not be coherent artistically with each other.

    The other solution is to indulge into R&D and break new ground by adopting early new technique to drive cost down, which is risky (might not work and have poor quality, work only in some condition so less flexibility). With the advent of AI generated content thanks to the deep learning revolution, who know if we will have a great equalizer (for some time at least)?

     
  10. goat

    goat

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    Since AAA and big business stick to tried and true methods of their success I'd think logically it would be easy to exceed them in quality metric but shear volume of output.

    The newest techniques don't stay behind closed doors anymore since university and government research, Unity, UE4, and so on are now available.

    However, remember this - with Assets like Speed Tree and Gaia even creating shear volume of art assets in big titles is becoming easier and possible; add in licensing from 3D model art studio businesses and what seemed completely out of reach is possible. It really comes down to who has the better eye and feel for a fun, exciting game.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2017
  11. Kiwasi

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    It seems to be about fifteen years difference. Indie games today are roughly equivalent to the AAA games from fifteen years ago. For solo devs the gap is larger.

    That's probably about as close as you are going to get. It's always going to be impossible for 5 people to do the same thing as 100 people in the same timeframe. But technology moves fast, meaning stuff that used to take years can be done in minutes today.
     
  12. ZJP

    ZJP

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    I'm French. And i very like the sonority of this expression 'Here we go again..' :rolleyes:
    Is there an underlying question like 'Can we do an AAA under Unity?'.
     
  13. AcidArrow

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    Ugh...

    Okay...

    AAA games' main characteristic is the thousands upon thousands of manhours that goes into them. How do you make Uncharted 4 without a mocap department? So this is an oxymoron.

    To make AAA game, you need to be a AAA team. If you aren't a AAA team, you can't make it.

    Please, can we stop with this? It doesn't matter anyways, there is nothing to be gained by answering this, there is zero practical application, we could be discussing more interesting stuff.

    And it has been talked to death many times before.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
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  14. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    I'll grant that solo developers and (I'll think I'll use this term) 'micro team' indies (this needed clarifying) can beat 8 bit games, mostly. 16 bit games however, I find that the console developers of yesteryear still beat micro teams.

    Entering 90s, generally, AAA beats most tiny teams, so I'd say 15 years was actually generous. Plenty of PS1 titles blow anything most tiny indies do away.

    Fancy engine demo with glossy post FX does not mean a finished game. Unless its finished and on sale, it doesn't count.
     
  15. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    A lot depends on how you define indie, AAA and a bunch of other terms. Which often makes this debate pointless. Here are some specifics I used:

    I took the 15 years from the release of Diablo II to the release of Path Of Exile. Admittedly Grinding Gear Games is a fairly big team as indies go. Maybe not the type of indie the OP was thinking of.

    From Frogger to Crossy Road is about 33 years. The original Crossy Road team was only two people, although the team got bigger as the game was successful. And of course the scope of Crossy Road is bigger then the scope of Frogger.

    So somewhere between 15-35 years, depending on exactly how one defines terms.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  16. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    I doubt anyone will believe us though. Because they're always the exception.
     
  17. BrandyStarbrite

    BrandyStarbrite

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    There are some AAA, cartoony console games out there.:D
    Zelda Breath of the Wild, is one such good example and is a cartoony looking adventure game, that's on 2 nintendo consoles.
    And even that game, is one of those epic games, that goes even kinda beyond
    what is termed, as AAA level. :p

    And as mentioned above by other posters, the term AAA can mean many
    different things, to many different game developers and gamers.:)
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  18. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    The thing is that it's all relative, it's like everyone is talking about different aspect of indie and AAA ... Given I have seen small indie team using mocap, or have some AAA visual quality.

    But let's be frank, I don't expect any indie team, let alone solo dev do a game that is on the same scale than ff7, and no sizeable indie team can touch ff12 even if they tried (mostly because, outside of scope, many things it does as set pieces is still expensive today).

    So yeah there is part of AAA that we cannot touch ever. But the discussion was always about WHICH part exactly in which context. I beleive that the ILLUSION of AAA can be achieved.
     
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  19. AcidArrow

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    But that's just "a polished game". The OP gave specific examples of specific games all of which have production values through the roof and require multiple teams of people working together.

    Let's just take AAA out of the way and focus on how to create good and polished games.

    It's like obsessively asking if a specific video camera will allow you to create a blockbuster film.

    I mean... Let me rephrase the OP a bit.

    "My question is: "How close do you think that a movie shot by a lone director can get to a hollywood blockbuster from the technical and artistic point of view?" and a side-question: "Can it be done with Camera X?"

    3. For references we shall take:
    - Transformers by Michael Bay
    - Pirates of the Carribean
    - Lord of the Rings
    - Star Wars the Force Awakens"
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
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  20. goat

    goat

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    This sort of thread is started again and again but it all comes done to personal opinion. How can the biggest budget video game for baseball for example compare to actually playing baseball? It can't.

    AAA games really aren't that much superior to what many indies are doing, it just takes the perspective of recognizing what is hype and what is substance.
     
  21. Assembler-Maze

    Assembler-Maze

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    Well, yes, covering everything in a single game by indies is quite impossible. However that is why I've also included some parts like texture quality, characters etc... that 'might' (again, just 'might') be touched individually by a small team.

    For example while mocap is not cheap, it is more 'affordable'. Like the the 'xsens' indie program, they sell you the mo-cap tools at around 8000$. It didn't convinced me too much but maybe someone might just try it out :)

    So, while an indie game can't get close to everything an AAA has, I was wondering to what parts of an AAA games it can get close to.
     
  22. Billy4184

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    Hasn't anyone ever heard of procedural generation though?

     
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  23. Assembler-Maze

    Assembler-Maze

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    The question was not related to myself specifically :)
     
  24. Assembler-Maze

    Assembler-Maze

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    Horizon Zero Dawn's all vegetation was made by 4 people and placed proceduraly. However i'm not sure the procedural tool was created by 4 people though...

    There was that cool article about it, it demonstrates the power of procedural placing of assets.
     
  25. Billy4184

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    Yeah I'm just pre-empting the naysayers, so they don't have a leg to stand on ...

    Seriously though, I'm a huge fan of procedural generation and it's the main part of my own focus on creating my solo games for the near future. However I'm well aware that for many aspects of game development, invoking the concept of procedural generation is a very difficult thing to do. It's easy to make a bland game, and to generate loads of crappy art and level design and think that just because it's procedural someone should be interested to play it.

    I think finding the right formula between procedural and hard-coded generation is an art in itself, and very complicated. But it's still very much worth considering because the potential payoff is huge, and it's the only way IMO for an indie to compete at anywhere near the AAA level.
     
  26. Assembler-Maze

    Assembler-Maze

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    I know that UE4 has some (though not very advanced) procedural tools. In Unity we can use Gaia (Gena) and some other tools like that.

    But yes, throwing in a bunch of procedural assets doesn't work. Hand crafted environments inside that are very much required.

    IMO i'd go with procedural vegetation, trees (biomes) maybe even animals but it certainly requires hand-crafting.

    I think that's the approach for that game 'Ashes of Creation'. I can't really consider them indie, they're about 12 people, but it's quite a big game, and it looks at a better level than Skyrim.
     
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  27. neginfinity

    neginfinity

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    People were "thinking about it" for at least 2 decades.

    Rule of the thumb: When something looks like a silver bullet that will solve every problem in industry... it probably is not a silver bullet. In case of "Huge potential" - "Potential" is something that does not currently exist but may happen someday, maybe.

    Procedural generation has its uses, but putting too much faith in it is probably a bad idea - you'll get HUGe but absolutely boring environments.
     
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  28. Kiwasi

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    We all saw No Man's Sky. Do I need to say more? :p

    For a more reasoned approach, consider the fact that any AAA studio also has the exact same procedural generation tools as a lone indie. They have more monkeys and more type writers then you do. Which means they will still win on sheer scale.
     
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  29. Assembler-Maze

    Assembler-Maze

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    But we also saw Horizon Zero Dawn, that while's not 100% fully procedural generated, it has a huge generated part: https://www.guerrilla-games.com/read/gpu-based-procedural-placement-in-horizon-zero-dawn

    And it looks kinda great. I really wouldn't be ashamed with that kind of generated content.
     
  30. Billy4184

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    I thought my image reflected exactly what you just said :D

    But anyway, here's the thing with procedural generation that I think is very important to keep in mind. It is:
    • High risk;
    • Very difficult to optimize quality;
    • Very difficult to tweak certain parts, and leave other parts unchanged.
    This is the antithesis of what an AAA studio is looking for. So just because it is possible to make reasonably good quality procedural generation, doesn't mean an AAA studio will want to use it.

    Surprisingly though, I've seen more innovation in procedural generation by AAA studios than by indies, at least what I hear about anyway. Every time I see a GDC talk by developers on a AAA game it's about these great tools for making stuff quickly.

    I think this is due to a number of things:
    This is very worrying to me, because it can only increase the gap between indies and AAA studios, which I don't think is a good thing. I think indies need to innovate fast on procedural tech, and craft the tools in the right way so that it produces a reasonably good quality, while satisfying their specific needs as efficiently as possible.
     
  31. Billy4184

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    As above ^, just because procedural generation tools are good enough for an indie, doesn't mean that it's good enough for an AAA studio - not just quality but also management aspects.

    It's interesting that Mass Effect Andromeda, despite throwing out a lot of the 'mass procedural content' aspect, still got panned for sub-par animations etc - it shows the quality bar that AAA studios must keep in order to compete successfully at the very top.
     
  32. Kiwasi

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    Guerrilla Games is also wholly owned by Sony. It employs about 270 staff. There is no way that we can stretch the definition of indie to cover Horizon Zero Dawn. In fact, it's pretty much the definition of AAA.

    Really this proves my point. The stuff a AAA studio can produce with procedural generation is well beyond the stuff indies can do. Horizon Zero Dawn blows No Man's Sky out of the water.
     
  33. Assembler-Maze

    Assembler-Maze

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    Yes, I didn't gave them as a indie reference :). The only thing that we can say is that all their vegetation was created by 4 guys, which is kinda cool.

    I'm 80.1% sure that in UE4 (with their procedural tools, since in Unity the foliage is kinda lacking) and if you have 2 motivated artists you can, at least, create a single type (like jungle or forest) of very good looking, close to AAA, environment. The foliage & rocks at least.

    But yea, re-stating what has been said earlier, if it's a small demo and not a released game it doesn't really matter.
     
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  34. gian-reto-alig

    gian-reto-alig

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    Why even ask the question?

    Indies are Indies, and AAA studios are likewise AAA studios. If one tries to compete with the other, they will have a hard time... yes I know some AAA publishers and studios tried to dabble in Indie waters, but they often did so with smaller teams and studios, so actually were not throwing AAA resources at an Indie title, and sometimes weren't too effective, as you cannot develop an Indie marvel title by focus testing an ill defined Indie niche audience, and trying to market research the pure chaos that is the Indie games market.

    If you try to soup up your Indie games graphics to look more AAA, there are smart ways to do that. But generally, good graphics need time and money invested. Filling your game with gorgeous cheap stock art will often not make it look better, just more generic. And in a bad way, as its especially the bad Indie devs that try to make their games look like more than they are that way. There is a growing ecosystem of good looking, incredibly buggy Indie games with abyssmal or no gameplay out there, that seem to shop their window dressing art for creating nice looking screenshots from the same stock art outlet.
    Best thing is to find out yourself what you, or if you have that, your artist can do in what time. Find out how to work smarter with the limited time you have, and where your own art has the most impact. Then fill the gaps with GOOD, FITTING stock art. Don't put cartoony mario coins into your realistic CoD style shooter!

    If you try to fake more content than you can produce, again, there are smart ways to do that. ProcGen of any kind. But if NMS and similar ProcGen heavy titles should teach you one thing, its that ProcGen =/= handcrafted content. If you ask me, its handcrafted content > ProcGen content, unless you or your artists/writers/gamedesigners are bad at what you are handcrafting.
    So again, trying to fake what you cannot make is reaching its limits fast. If you embrace the limitations of ProcGen and work with them, you might create a game that can entertain a certain niche of players endlessly... see the roguelikes. These often are not trying to give people the expierience of a handcrafted AAA 100 hour RPG filled with characters, quests and whatnot. They make a simple gameplay concept more replayable by random level generation.
    Trying to create a Witcher 3 with just a single person is going to fail.


    So how close can an Indie game get to an AAA title? About as close as you would expect a team 25 to 100 times smaller to get to the same results.
    This smaller team can achieve more than you think by working smarter, not running into corporate bullshit loops (where a projects changes direction because of reasons most probably not even management grasps completly), and because of the 80-20 rule where you spend 80% of the time on the last 20% of refinment... because that level of quality is expected of AAA games, oftentimes a lot of time flows into sculpting the skinpores on characters, making fire look more beautiful with some new VFX trickery, and stuff like that. Certainly makes heads turn an graphics junkies sqeal, but at the end of the day the game without thos last 20% of eye candy looks 80% as good, with only 20% of the time spent on the graphics.

    Still, 4 guys trying to compete with a 50-100 strong team of AAA professionals is going to have a hard time unless they limit their scope compared to the bigger team, a lot!
     
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  35. Martin_H

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    I'm increasingly loosing faith in procedural generation and I think gamers are doing as well, since the general disappointment in no man's sky. Many have this "Ugh, not another one" reaction for open world survival games or retro inspired indie plattformers and I've heard people make similar remarks towards PCG games along the lines of "nowadays I'd be more excited to see someone actually bothering to hand-craft content again".
    Also watching a talk by Sean Murray gave some interesting insights into unique problems that they had to deal with, because of their big runtime-procedural world and I wonder if the game would ultimately have been better if all that energy had been focused more on handcrafting and quality over quantity. Also valve reported the percentage of games being played to the end at an all-time low, and I think players are starting to prefer 4 to 8 hours of well-produced and fresh content over another 50 to 100 hour sandy sandbox where everything tastes like sand.
    I'm still gonna use some procedural techniques myself, but that is less a decision based on me being sure it's worth it, than me having orders of magnitude more patience for tweaking a procedural system than handcrafting levels. And even then, I'm finding the biggest leap I made with that workflow was commiting to do some of the level layouting manually because it's just so much faster and better.
     
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  36. Arowx

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    This is more fun if you consider the fourth dimension of time. Then a AAA game can be pong, pac-man, space invaders, and the answer is definitely yes.

    Up to a point, probably you can make a game that matches AAA games up to the 90's and even early 2000's, 2010 and up probably not.

    Or you could consider hardware platforms as they often limit the games that can be made on them e.g. a AAA N64, PS or GameBoy games.
     
  37. Billy4184

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    Well while the No Mans Sky launch was a spectacular failure, it's pretty simple what the problem was, and it would have been even more stunningly obvious if you remove the 'infinite worlds' aspect and just imagine it as a game set in a single environment or planet. It had little to no substance in the gameplay. There's nothing about No Mans Sky that would not have already been a severe problem had it not involved procedural generation as such. Had it been set in a typical non-scifi survival setting, and demonstrating that depth of gameplay, I imagine it would hardly have gotten noticed at all by anybody.

    The question of what extent procedural generation enforces a superficiality to the gameplay is what we have to deal with. But for me, the answer in general terms is quite simple:
    • Procedural tech should extend the capability of an artist, not replace their ideas with perlin noise.
    • For the love of all that is rational, resist the temptation to make anything infinite. Millions and billions are terms that should not find themselves used when describing the content of any game (except maybe in terms of pixels used).
    • It's perfectly fine to hardcode stuff, in fact it's great when you can do that if you need to. After all, we're here presumably to create something specific and bounded in some way, not just to pour forth whatever comes out of a generator.
    • Procedural tech should work around any designed aspects of a game. For example if you have a village here and a village there and you want a forest, it should build itself around everything that you have made, rather than you having to defer to whatever the generator decides to spit out. And if you find that to make the game fun, you have to shift the village again, that should not be a problem either.
    • The gameplay should never, ever, ever suffer as a result of procedural generation.
    Basically, procedural generation should be the workhorse of the developer, not the other way around. Unfortunately for some, the temptation of creating infinite content is too much, and they enter into unholy relationships with noise functions, and make abominable invocations of Random.Range, until their game is consumed.
     
  38. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    Just to add something that I think is a good point to think about: just because procedural generation creates something really good 10% of the time doesn't make it OK that the other 90% of the time stuff is bland. I get the feeling sometimes that developers attribute undue value to something good that comes out of a generator. However to the gamer, where stuff comes from is not important - for them, it's the same as if you hired 10 people to make your game, and only 1 of them was good at it while the other 9 were clueless. That would rightly be called a poorly managed and badly made game, and the same is true of the procedurally generated one.

    That's why I think that wherever procedural generation doesn't fit, it should be removed entirely or used to tweak values in such a way that it enhances what has already been made.
     
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  39. gian-reto-alig

    gian-reto-alig

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    IMO, NMS was a "bursting bubble" more than anything else. People were just expecting too much from ProcGen, and Murray and his Gang did nothing to burst their bubble pre release.

    That isn't the fault of the game, or ProcGen in general. If anything, the game employed ProcGen in a clumsy and unsubtle way, no matter how advanced and cool the underlying tech was.
    If that ProcGen prowess would have been backed by good handcrafted content, created by a team double or triple the size, NMS might have lived up to the hype. Well, at least a little bit more. No matter how much you improve the ProcGen System, or how many million game dev monkeys craft content for you by hand, infinite replayability is too lofty a goal to ever achieve.

    Just throwing a bunch of ProcGen Systems at players and expecting them to not loose interest quickly is a stupid idea. Sure, some people are just expecting a sandbox to have fun in, and might enjoy seeing ProcGen silliness in Planet- and Aliengeneration for quite some time.
    For many, a game has to be more than just an empty sandbox, ESPECIALLY a 60 bucks game.


    Sooooo.... while I am a big sceptic when it comes to ProcGen, I think ProcGen can be used for the better IF it is backed by solid handcrafted content AND integrated into solid gameplay mechanics.


    As to handcrafting a game of NMS scope... not even with 1000 people working on it. When you are declaring "infinity replayability", or "billions of unique worlds", ProcGen is not your best, but your only shot at it.
    Not saying that this scope is actually a good idea. Or that going for a way too large scope instead of a solid game of a smaller scope is a good idea for a small Indie team like hello games. Just saying that with their sales pitch, they actually had talked themselves into the ProcGen corner from the get go.

    See how the current star of the galactic scale games, Star Citizen, is an ever growing monstrosity which will most probably get delayed time and time again, and still manage to fail to deliver for many people when they finally run out of money and steam.
    See how GTA V has a massive budget, yet still is not even depicting the whole of the US, and a lot of the game world as far as I understood it feels kinda empty.

    You could of course build an interesting game set in a predefined subset of a galaxy made up of tens of worlds, or a more linear expierience like Mass Effect, and can still make that game make feel massive in scope by adding a lot of details and life to the worlds and places in it.
    But not on a small Indie budget with 15 people strong team.


    TL;DR: don't blame hello games and murrays mistakes on ProcGen as a whole.
     
  40. hippocoder

    hippocoder

    Digital Ape Moderator

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    It seems people still do not understand that if they strip all the media they still can't do any of these games without half a decade or a team. That's without media of any kind, just cubes and text.

    Try to do the content of any far cry game for example. With just cubes. Even if you pillage asset store, you're not doing it. End of.

    Be smart, do something within your means if you're doing it for business. First understand if even the code alone is within reach for the design you choose. Media.... is the least of the small indie's problems.

    Let's look at a success in Unity: http://www.playdead.com/games/inside/
    - this isn't AAA but I believe its the top end of what indie can do and admire them.

    That's more than 25 people.
     
  41. ZJP

    ZJP

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  42. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    Not to mention needing millions of dollars and tons of people and man hours for years to produce a high-end AAA title. Not that you couldn't in unity, if you had those resources. Be realistic.
     
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  43. gian-reto-alig

    gian-reto-alig

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    Or be KNOWLINGLY unrealistic... you know, when you do it as a hobby, you can work on your dream game for 10 years or so. Instead of building a ship from scratch or the eiffel tower from match sticks or whatever crazy people do when they need a hobby, and have way too much time on their hands.

    But if you embark on THAT journey, you need to know damn well what you get yourself into (you could work many decades on that project and still fail to meet AAA quality), and that you shouldn't do it for the money because you most probably will make nil.
    Expecting to build the next Witcher 3, or getting rich doing that is a stupid idea. Wanting to create your own RPG and striving for slightly bigger scope just for fun CAN be a rewarding expierience, as long you are at least realistic about the timeline and the RoI.
     
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  44. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Anyway there is a lot of talk here but it does not address the elephant in teh room, it's a production and planning problem. What I mean is that it's not a homogenous problem, something scale easily while other don't, some have remain expensive despite progress while some have tanked into automation, not all genre benefit the same way, ie uncharted don't have the scope of a mass effect or a witcher. So we should compare number and cost for each aspect.

    And then I'm going to piss a lot of people by saying they have a poor understanding of how pcg works, have too much emphasis on failure case and conveniently ignore the success (like spelunky), and are i denial about how prevalent pcg is already in used for a massive amount of stuff (hidding behind the terms of tools, like speedtree or houdini), and murray is a programmer (not a designer, he clearly don't care much about structure and see random as magic) who is too enamoured with the idea of random landscape to make a game out of it (I was underwhelm by is gdc talk), and people don't want to give credit to what MOD did to no man sky as a proof of simple pcg.

    But that last one chapiter of mine, the onus of proof is on me ;)

    Nah! you can have highly polish pixel art game (flint hook), and poorly polish AAA game (recently mass effect andromeda), production value is not equal polish.
     
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  45. ShilohGames

    ShilohGames

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    Horizon Zero Dawn is still a AAA title, though. I think the dev budget was around $50M for that game. It is an excellent example of what AAA can do with solid procedural generation tools.
     
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  46. Assembler-Maze

    Assembler-Maze

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    I would also consider 'Prey For The Gods' a good indie game. 3 people, that managed quite a good combat system, animation, bosses etc. 'Ghost of a Tale' is also a quite good example. They are not AAA, but in some (few) aspects they try to get towards that direction.

    And about those 25 ppl working at playdead. I mean do you really need 25 people for that? I think it might be too much personnel for that. I am not sure that a company really produces profit if their employee count skyrockets.

    I mean, look at some giants out there that made a successful game, attracted a ton of angel investors, and after that failed to create anything else of quality and ended up being swallowed by a bigger company, or just getting bankrupt.

    I don't want to say that you need few people for an AAA game, lol no, just that SOME companies seem to use more people than they might actually need.
     
  47. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Yes, but it's only recently become a marketing buzzword.

    rogue.gif
     
  48. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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  49. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Though that list is by no means an exhaustive one. While it does make mention of Arena which used procedural generation for many aspects of the game, it makes no mention whatsoever of Daggerfall which used procedural generation for the bulk of its content.
     
  50. HemiMG

    HemiMG

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    I wonder if there were people on Usenet in the early 80s wondering if procedural generation would replace artists and allow them to magically create AAA quality games? :)
     
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