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How Close Can Indies Get To AAA Games?

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

  1. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    In that case I can't really argue anything as I don't have experience with developing or playing VR games. But how are they bad? What makes them bad?

    People said Skyrim's UI was bad for PC, but when I played the game I didn't even think anything like, "these controls are garbage on M&K." Some of that is undoubtedly me, but it's easy to draw arbitrary lines.

    I think you have a point, but assuming that an indie game is something super short isn't necessary. Consider Vigilantes, or frosted's Blood, Sweat, and Gold, both of which have been around here in development for years. An indie dev can make something more complex and involved.

    That aside, it might be helpful also to compare to "indie" projects by AAA companies, such as Ubisoft's Child of Light, Valient Hearts, Grow Home, Grow Up, or Orb (perhaps also Trackmania and/or the Rayman games).
     
  2. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    This is an excellent point, and it's something I was thinking about with regard to trailers recently. I read your thread about good looking Unity games, saw Ryiah's recommendation of Underworld along with the embedded trailer, and then saw the comments saying the trailer was really poor.

    I thought about our previous discussions on the topic, that indies should outsource trailers that an AAA could do. And I kind of realized--the AAA game doesn't magically have good trailers because there's more money, but rather because the company has people who are good at making trailers. Money's part of it but it's really about people.

    I can't speak to your father but my grandmother owns a business (which my father recently took over after "retiring" from his lifelong career) and from my observations the quality of employees you get (in the aggregate) will be dependent in part on the type of job and on the type of employer. If your job is low-paying and labor-intensive and little else, you're not going to get particularly intelligent people. That sounds harsh but that's not a value judgement on those people, just saying you get what you pay for. If you have a moderately high-paying position in a technical field, especially one that allows for lots of...personal fulfillment I'll say, for something like a game (when it's released, people on the team can look back and say "I built a part of that"), you get people putting in their all.

    You get stuff like the crunch culture, which may be partly management-driven but is also partly employee-driven. Crunch culture does not come about from people who don't care about what they're doing.
     
  3. neoshaman

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    It's worth noting that man hour don't grow linearly with team size. There is this concept of sublinearity, that is the relative output become less efficient as team size grew, for example you need more coordination and therefore more management, that are man hour that don't translate into asset build, also there is validation step required that takes more time and more bureaucracy slowing the whole thing down.

    And ultimately, given similar pipeline, AAA will always trump indie sure, but that's the key, indie that tries to go AAA should rethink and innovate on production, that's inevitable. For an AAA team it's more cost effective to just increase head count on a tried and true pipeline, because you have the resources to hire more people, so when you need more level you hire more level designer, and you hire more coordination staff that make sure the level are coordinated in terms of contents. Also AAA team create in house tools that suit their needs, that's a head count that does not factor in a team using ready made engine.

    For example, when suckerpunch design infamous son in the early open world boom, they didn't have the resources to compete with other big studio, they innovated by using modular hex layout to reduce the level design burden and punch above their weight, and succeed where a big team was needed. Comparatively, bethesda has a very small level designer team relative to their world as they have invested in a modular pipeline that allow a single designer to make a huge number of map.

    You only have incitive to innovate in production when you don't have access to the resources needed. The point is that AAA will solve their problem by just tossing head count at it, which can maybe solved in a different way. For example I don't think ubi soft would have invented or even use the hex modular level design of suckerpunch, because they can just circumvent that with more people.

    The thing is that we have to solve each of these production problem one by one.
     
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  4. AndersMalmgren

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    Oh, I don't judge the people working at zenimax, I know they have their hands tied, thats my point, they are triple A, they seek the easy money, they choose to slap sloppy VR controls on an existing game instead of taking their time with it. It's not the first time, we have seen it many times over with console ports.

    Talking about Zenimax, their legal side is not that fun either, the Indies behind Prey for the gods had to change their title after Zenimax sent their lawyers after them. Also I did not like how they handled the John Carmack incident. But that's another story
     
  5. angrypenguin

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    Yep, agreed.

    Something else to consider is pure budget. With a low budget you get team members being forced to spread themselves over many roles or jobs. They might be great at those things but you simply won't get as good spreading your effort across many different things as you will focusing on one or two. In a big studio with a big budget it's entirely possible to have someone who's got years of practice on something just doing that one thing, and spending lots of hours on it.

    So they don't just have me beaten in pure time, they also have me beaten in experience.

    Now, I think my current project looks astoundingly good considering the limited resources and time that's gone into it. And one of our goals at the start was to be visually competitive with much bigger games than our own. But I'd be fooling myself to think that a big budget team couldn't get better results.
     
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  6. Martin_H

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    I hope you'll show us that game one day!
     
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  7. McDev02

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    Agree here. I think you can value the workplace on how much fluctuation there is and the more it comes from the employee side the worse it is. If people leave because they don't like the work environment then you are trapped in a downward spiral as an employer. People who had knowledge and responsibility leave and you got to recruit new people all the time. On the other hand if you pay your people well enough or at least treat them well like no much overtime or free food and drinks and they are happy with their work then you will succeed on the long run.

    The only requirement is that you have a successfully running business and make enough earnings to supply this culture. Even if you want if you can't afford it it won't work.
     
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  8. angrypenguin

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    I'll be showing as many people as I can!
     
  9. frosted

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    Can you show anything now? I'm curious also ;)
     
  10. neoshaman

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    We can still learn from the hellblade experiment, here their last video that goes back on their challenge and how they have overcome it.

    While YOU may not be able to reach that fidelity, here is how a small team made their game:


    and the technical evaluation by digital foundry
     
  11. Deleted User

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    An interesting thread although there seems to be quite a few misconceptions. I'm sorry to say a lot of people who work for AAA companies don't sit around all day flicking snot around the office half listening to a manager drone on..

    They are just as decidated as anyone else and because of their skill in a specific field tend to get things done faster than anyone wearing multiple hats. They don't need hand holding either, it's a collective ideal which sure it's hard to find a clear vision sometimes, it's not uncommon to throw millions down the drain on a prototype that gets ditched.

    Here's the thing, I have to prototype just like they do to get a feel for the game.. If not it'll end up an invariable mishmash of ideas trying to fit into one common goal even though it's coming out of one mind.

    If we are creating from scratch I don't see how anyone under a team of ten could ever compete on a current large AAA game. First thing, you don't have time to deal with tech or engines.. For every problem / toolset / shader technique you work on you're already ten steps behind someone dedicated to working on the game.

    Sure you can asset store right? Hate to be frank but there's LITTLE that comes close to the best AAA games out there and you'll need a smorgasbord of stuff dependant on the engine. For any asset store creator who reads this and thinks yeah, don't be a **** I'm not saying it's necessarily your fault or issue (also it's not always the case). A lot of these seperate assets need to work interdependantly and need a REALLY strict resource budget, what would work for 99.9% of indies ain't going to work in a massive AAA openworld game..

    Even IF you have a massively skilled / massive team of AAA vets it doesn't mean the end result will be good, I mean there's been a fair amount of big AAA games with a lot of performance and technical issues.

    When it comes to coding, I don't think you have to be all that good.. Shaders and tech aside you can get away with being mediocre BUT.! Even following the best practices in a proper hierachical design it gets confusing, even from a grunt work perspective I'm constantly looking up quest parameters off a spreadsheet.

    500K lines plus and things start getting really confusing, in a AAA environment that never happens you have people to do the gruntwork and you only work on specific parts, you're not taking two month breaks whilst you dash off doing art forgetting what you was up to last. We are human after all, not machines and we do forget..

    Then there's the art, it's nothing like it used to be.. Being called an "artist" is probably the loosest term I've come across because most of it is very highly technical, everything went procedural years back / they use physics for so many things.. E.g. a pipe, you wouldn't model every single instance of a pipe and stack it you'd procedurally variate it and then use physics based overlays.

    Creating en mass characters is a long time consuming affair, even just again from a gruntwork side.. Adding AI profiles / setting up collision etc. etc. It's all the little things you don't think of that can add up and you know why most games shy away from any sort of intensive interactive components because it's bad enough getting a character to sit on a chair / grab a drink and being able to initialise a UI component.

    Talking about dialogue, another thing that can take months even with a limited amount of speach..

    I mean I could write a book on this, not to mention as soon as you start making progress they move on.. Now it's going towards photogrammetry, then it will be this / that etc.

    I work fast (or so I've been told), I took an R-Type game I made in 28 hours and had it setup as a fully working space flight sim in 40 hours (with multiple levels) that was creating everything from scratch (well most of it).. I can make a crappy RPG ready be released on Steam in a month..

    To create something I'd be truly proud of? Something that might have a good chance of standing tall against the competition? It's been years and I've not gotten over the first hurdles.
     
  12. angrypenguin

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    I know, right? Dialog is a great example of something apparently simple that can explode your timelines and seriously mess with your pipelines or workflows.

    People think it's easy: Grab a microphone and have someone speak into it, organise your audio files as needed, drag and drop them into appropriate slots in your editor or database.

    Sure... that's how it works if nothing ever changes. Realistically there's a bunch of steps before and after that which can effect one another, and unless you're doing your voicing in-house (mmm, developer acting!) you can't just easily update those assets. I suspect that this is a large part of why so many games have bad dialog and/or acting - not bad writers or bad actors, but just how cumbersome that stuff is to iterate on resulting in a need to compromise rather than polish.
     
  13. angrypenguin

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    I think you might be setting the bar for personal pride a little high there. If you're told you're already doing better than most people and you really can do the stuff you described then comparing yourself to teams of hundreds and not being proud because you failed to match them is being pretty harsh on yourself!
     
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  14. neoshaman

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    Yep the goal is to get close, not to match, and certainly not to match the top best.
     
  15. Deleted User

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    This was my kinda last half hearted attempt in Unity about two years ago now, after the wall of issues in Unity 4 I kinda just lost face and got involved in other peoples stuff:

    Even with the stock char's you'll have to take my word for it, in the most part it was a fully working game.. Wasn't feeling it so I dumped it / did something else.. I look at it and it just didn't stack up for me. With the amount of time I have I couldn't consistantly push it to greater extents, now I'm sure some can but I personally was peaking at this level..




    These were the lighting tests I created below, I mainly do them for prototypes to make sure the scene turns out somewhat like I'd want them and ultimatley this is how I'd want my game to look from end to end. Issue is I don't believe it's realistic for me alone or in a small team to do it and bring everything along for the ride (sound, animation, music etc.).. P.S in case you didn't notice, yes I am obsessed with GRFX and this was done wayy before the new HD render pipelines etc.



     
  16. jasonxtate66

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    To me it's comparing a Michael Bay movie like Transformers or a movie Duane "The Rock" Johnson in that had 150 million dollar budgets or more to an indie film that was made for $60,000... one won't look like the other. I don't think it's as much about the tool. If you are spending that kind of money, you may have a proprietary engine that was designed, use Unity, use Unreal... whatever. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for.

    Good ain't cheap and cheap ain't good. That is why solo projects or two guy projects basically fit to the strengths of yourself or a partner and you don't have the luxury of these top-notch concept artists, storyboard directors, 3D modelers and animators, access to motion capture technology, someone who does film movie scores - we haven't even gotten to voice actors, let alone all the GUI assets, programming hours you are doing for free as an indie compared to the typical 15$-20$ an hour for a decent programmer that can solve problems for you quickly... it's like comparing Walmart to Family Dollar in terms of resources.

    When I think of AAA titles, I think more of a "cinematic experience" - the camera work is on par with movie studios now in certain titles... look at the new God of War, it's a technical marvel. But they are games with the same budgets that movies have, that use excellent CGI and hiring $20 million dollar actors. I recently had a speaker that has done a lot of CGI movies for the Marvel Movies, and he came from video games.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2018
  17. jasonxtate66

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    I also want to add... I have seen/heard about groups of guys quitting their jobs... putting in 80k, and getting 1k in sales in their first 6 months. Which plays to marketing, which is another beast. Imagine the promotion the "big companies" but into their game. The posters, action figures, cardboard stand ups cost more than the budget of any indie games. It is a risk even on a low level.
     
  18. Deleted User

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    Ultimatley if you have a fair bit of money to chuck at a wall and a bit of skill / luck you can go toe to toe graphically and in terms of cinematics.. They don't have anything the major three don't have (LY, Unreal, Unity) which have hundreds of engineers working on them already..

    The one place you'll always fall flat on your face is content, I think Witcher 3 had something daft like 300 - 500 hours worth of gameplay with the DLC's? It's ridiculous, I mean what small team could beat that? Again if cinematics is all people care about I'd of just released a 2 hour uncanny valley game and leave it at that, it just turns out in reality your game would get slammed into the ground.. Something has to give.!

    Fully agree on the risk..
     
  19. angrypenguin

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    That's a part of my point. It was there in terms of visual quality (we can see that) and functionality (I'll take your word for it). The gap was that there's one of you doing something "half hearted"ly, where teams who make full commercial games that look like your examples have dozens or hundreds of people doing it as their focused day jobs.

    The other part of my point is that even if you did peak there it's still something to be proud of. You have a fraction of a percent of the resources available to the large teams you're comparing yourself to.
     
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  20. iamthwee

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    Surely at some point small team indies have an 'enlightenment' moment where they realise they can NEVER get close to a AAA game. Some reach this moment sooner than others.

    Others it seem stay stuck there for ages. @ShadowK did you ever get close to completing a playable demo of your game, you promised us this last xmas >.<
     
  21. jasonxtate66

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    This goes back to scope and when to know to move on. Everyone wants to make Skyrim for their first title... it isn't going to happen. You don't start playing guitar doing Van Halen solos, let alone having a group of guys that can do them. It's a long process. If you have that group, you typically get what you pay for.
     
  22. AndersMalmgren

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    I say it again, dont try to beat AAA studios where you can't, beat them at stuff they are generally bad at, like ground breaking mechanics, originality, etc
     
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  23. jasonxtate66

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    The resurgence in (well-made) Indie Games with the retro aesthetic, and more forgiving aspects (saving games, checkpoints) excites me way more than the AAA titles at this point. I go back and play NES games, and mostly only buy indie games. But that's just me. The idea of making a game entirely by yourself or with another person, without huge funding is attractive to me and I love seeing what people come up with.
     
  24. neoshaman

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    By the way, the guys who made the ADAM demo for unity are going after hollywood style quality now, without having the team size:


    In the end, only people who tried will figure out, just like hellblade is hella closer than somepeople here want to admit to that AAA quality. We can always split hair in half and move goalpost, if the visual fidelity is achieve, you will move to scope, if there is scope you will move to team size, or marketing,etc, even though AAA games differ in scope, density and quality of their assets. In the end you are finding excuse to not fail instead of learning for failure, if you aim for the sun you will go further than reason permit, even if you don't reach the sun. :p
     
  25. Deleted User

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    No and this sort of crap is the reason why: https://forum.unity.com/threads/archviz-tips-lets-make-unity-better-than-ever-photorealism.532146/

    LOL!.. I am trying to make a game that would make a decent sized AAA studio sweat and technical challenges aside I can do some of it to an extent, although one can't avoid the technical challenges and that's where chucking millions at resources really counts.. There's no engine on the market without a grand investment that could actually deal with my project (well there is one but I refuse to use it), with the way Unity is going I'm sure in years to come it would be able to handle it efficiently..

    For now at least I really need to reign it all back in, issue is the concept for the original game becomes completely invalid and it's a start from scratch scenario.

    It's a bit like a soap drama, I'm like do I go to all the effort of making a custom built PC only game engine which is lightweight / does the exact job I need it to.. Or will Unity get there? Will they? Won't they?!

    I think the best option for me is to make something like The Last of Us, small sized / high quality scenes without having to create global illumination systems for ToD / have multiple character systems etc. etc. and when I have a few spare minutes continue working on the engine I made years back.
     
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  26. infinitypbr

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    With the new Book of the Dead demo....I threw in the Dragons Pack PBR. It looks damn nice.

    BookOfTheDragon1.jpg
     
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  27. AndersMalmgren

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    So you can mix the HD pipeline with classic PBR? I really need to start read up on this topic
     
  28. infinitypbr

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    I think i need to make a custom shader — but I changed the shader from standard (which doesn’t work in hdrp) to one they included for the rocks. That accepts the albedo and normal map and has sliders for metal / rough, which I approximated. So the roughness isn’t accurate. But it worked for the demo, and was close enough in his case. But I’d prefer to use the maps, which would mean a custom shader I thjnk, esp when I have metal and leather on the same character.


     
  29. AndersMalmgren

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    Ah ok. I really hope they fix a tool to convert PBR to HD pipeline somehow.
     
  30. Auticus

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    I focus on something fun that people would enjoy. I'm not worried if its "AAA" or not. There was a time that game devs just made fun games. Innovate and come up with cool mechanics. Worrying about "AAA" should be the last thing on your mind IMO. There are plenty of "AAA" games that are garbage and there are plenty of indy games that are not "AAA" that are high quality and a ton of fun.
     
  31. zenGarden

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    I could not say it better.
     
  32. neoshaman

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    Worrying about AAA is not the problem though, it's a challenge not an envy!:p Dev have always worried in pushing the limit of what can be done, be it time (game jam), publishing (shareware, indies), or visual emulation (realism, cel shading, voxel rendering), and we turned these tech challenge into fun game (doom, minecraft, etc ...).

    We are not worried we are having fun

    Let's see how it goes When I try after being bankrupted with current "hair tech" lol. Problem is irl though, kept messing with the timeline.
     
  33. neoshaman

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  34. Murgilod

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    As is usually the case with these sorts of posts, this glosses over the work required to produce more than one of these assets and set them up, and the amount of technical skill required to do this in the first place. This looks nice, it's very impressive, but it is a tiny sliver of a content pipeline compared to making a whole game.
     
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  35. neoshaman

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    Of course, but comparatively it was something that was totally out of any individual league, there a big chasm between "impossible" (like thousand of dollars) and "lot of effort". This used to be a team efforts with a long pipeline involving many specialist working together, this was made by one guy experimenting on his own.

    This be exploited to redefine pipeline anyway, because the base accessibility allow for innovation. It will still be hard to have a fully mocap of an action scene like in uncharted (until proven otherwise, the tech is kinda almost there), but I bet that (this example is as illustration) a bartending simulator (ie mostly static character bust) can be a genre that didn't knew it had some following after a certain bar of quality ...

    The point is that it's not of the league of any "unicorn" dev, and will probably be democratize further with tools and services build on top. For example, realistic "enough" character use to be that huge endeavor, now with character creators app and a Marvelous designer it is "accessible" as "good enough" modeling. And even for unique character that ask for unique topology (think snoke) it give a decent starting point that shorten the workflow by jumpstarting a good base. And we can always design around the limitation by not playing in the system weakness.

    There is already experiment that conform a base mesh to a photo too, so scanning will be easier too to have realistic unique faces. And then adapting facial morph works the same way. We can already plug character to ready made rig. And some services do transfer of morph, https://www.polywink.com/14-automatic-facial-rig-on-demand.html

    My argument up until there is that we could fool the layman into thinking an indie game, made by one person (indirectly, all these services have hundreds of man hour behind them), by playing on the strength of the offering. BUT I used to draw the line to character animation, because facial capture and voice acting couldn't be automated nor accessible without significant resources, well this wall is crumbling fast, Voice acting for example can probably soon exploit a few peoples and use neural transfer to change and adapt their voices toward others.
     
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  36. Murgilod

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    Everything you just said can be said going back years and years and years. AAA studios will also be adapting this tech, and they'll be doing it faster and with higher quality. "A unicorn could probably do it" is meaningless as well because a unicorn can always do it, because they're unicorns.

    "We can fool a layman" is something people have said for ages, but it never really works out like that because it's an arms race.
     
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  37. neoshaman

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    Well it did work for lost souls abide and a few works that promptly got absorbed into a proper team and company. I Mean of course AAA will absorbed that and already did, I frame the problem as perception to a public. IMHO if you are such a unicorns you will be absorbed by a proper AAA as this kind of experiment makes for great portfolio, which is why we don't see much, aside maybe Hellblade (though it's not a single person indie) because that was the whole point to stay small and lean.


    The other part of the equation is that AAA always brute force their result, even though they have access to these tools, it's probably not as efficient as it could be because that's one aspect of production they don't have to optimized. Also these innovation are tacked on existing workflow and practice, they don't necessarily exploited to their full potential.

    And I'm not arguing that we can achieve the best AAA looks of the best AAA, but there is plenty lower tiers of AAA we can still match. And finally playing to strength is for example, we probably can't do a game like assassin's creed odyssey as the cost of just documentation and fidelity to history is over budget, setting where we can make things up to cover limit, like fantasy and sify is probably teh way to go..


    But I have a vested interest to continue explore that, as my cultural niche is unlikely to merge with the AAA infrastructure anytime soon. And while I'm probably not that unicorns, this is a good thought exercises that do help me planned ahead. I couldn't start experimenting myself as soon as I wanted, but I think this year is the year where I'll try to put all of that in practice.

    I don't know if I, personally, can reach those result, especially because I tend to always go NPR rather than realism, low spec rather than hi spec, and I have a few gotcha that don't play with the strength, like trying to properly render black people, especially their hair (due to setting). But I'll try to do a proper proof of concept at least once!

    On the subject of NPR it's actually way harder, but people are less intimidated because there is no metric of visual comparison, like frigging reality, for most style. It's only when you obsess over details (like swimming texture) that you start to see discrepancy, also it allow for a lot of experimentation without feeling overwhelmed, over the course of the years we have seen many breakthrough that aren't as celebrated as ray tracing is for realism. But nailing a genuine illustrative looks that isn't your typical bad cell shading had made great stride.
     
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  38. astracat111

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    The problem is that when you have these higher res graphics you give up more game if you're indie. Out of the 6000 hours so far I've put in the last 3 years to this JRPG I've been making about 1500+ have gone so far into debugging and I'm still today debugging. We underestimate what takes so much time.
     
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  39. Billy4184

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    The only strategy for an indie to exploit new tech is to put it into production when it still has a deficiency that makes it a non-starter for the kinds of games that AAA companies are expected to produce, and to find the game design that best plays to the strengths of that tech and hides its weaknesses.
     
  40. mattis89

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    You did what?
     
  41. neginfinity

    neginfinity

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    I'm surprised this thread is still going.
     
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  42. Arowx

    Arowx

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    Has this thread touched on modding as a lot of people get into the AAA side of the industry by creating great mods for existing games. Could that be classed as indies making AAA games?
     
  43. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Only if it's complete overhaul, ie using an engine.
     
  44. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I think that would be classed as indies modifying AAA games.
     
  45. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Anyway, assets creation and tweaking is the headaches at the quality level of AAA. That's where you need to innovate.

    Looking at full overhaul mod, they starve at assets, finding and coordinating people who donate the time necessary to model, produce sound, make voices and level build has been the buggest problem.

    Indies made complex game system already by the dozen.
     
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  46. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    I'm amused that cryengine feel like they had to make that tutorial

    Given they started by being smug to non expert, and most of it is not specific to cryengine anyway.

    @wetcircuit I know you are interested in these kind of workflow, don't know if this one is interesting to you.
     
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  47. wetcircuit

    wetcircuit

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    The obvious way to beat AAA is to have a female character. That will knock out 85% of AAA studios.

    Even these Adam bros :rolleyes:

    exploding guts skeleton ☑
    4k vegetation scans ☑
    burning skinnedmesh demon ☑

    character with girl cooties ☐
    :eek: OMGWTF never seen one in real life so it can't exist in a game TOO HARD! ABORT!! ABORT!!!

    tripple-aiy is an insult to anyone with a vagina.:rolleyes:

    … or anyone who has met a vagina-person in real life.
     
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  48. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Oups :p
     
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  49. BrandyStarbrite

    BrandyStarbrite

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    Yeah. I miss those days too.:oops:


    Yep. And many of those AAA games are overhyped, not all that great, and strangely sell well too. The same can be said with a few indie games too. But at least there are still, a handful of fun games out there, AAA and indie, that are fun even if the rest/majority are not all that great.

    No joke. I will admit, I haven't bought a AAA game, in over 10+ years.:p
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
  50. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I miss the days where you could have a knock-down drag-out fight just by mentioning AAA. Now when you do it people just wince and look the other way. I think the Steam Flood turned everybody into Barney Gumble.

    Seriously though, the tools and opportunities for indies to try even bigger and better games are ready and waiting. It's just necessary to ignore the false prophets of the Flood and have faith that if you do it well and market it smartly, you'll actually succeed.
     
unityunity