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Technicalities, games as a whole!

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Deleted User, Mar 27, 2015.

  1. Deleted User

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    If you're a game developer wanting to (or do) sell to the public, what are your thoughts on competition, time, scalability and productivity in games creation?

    Six months ago, I wanted to go in a specific direction which ultimately changed due to time and technology. Looking at competition too hard made me loose perspective on what I was trying to achieve, productivity and enthusiasm took us in a direction we never EVER thought we'd go down.

    We've scrapped concepts more times than I'd care to admit and our approach ever changes, for all the documentation and game plans. It's amazing at how time and technicalities shaped our vision.!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015
  2. Tomnnn

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    Are you saying you scrapped ideas because they were appearing to be clones of other games?

    Sometimes people want to try something new. If some AAA studio puts out a $60 standard fps but with 1 unique feature but you produce an indie game focused on that feature for say $8-$15, you'll probably see a lot of sales.

    I like PoE's "develop a game that we want to play" mentality. If you're focused on your own idea, the competition probably won't matter because most of the competition is pandering to the biggest market or continually remaking the same game every year with worse optimization (haha see what I did there instead of saying nicer textures?).

    You can also consider Portal's beginnings for inspiration. Make a game based on a unique concept and hope others will find it interesting and fund it.
     
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  3. Deleted User

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    @Tomnnn

    No for all sorts of reasons, technical limitations of the engines and software your using. Time, effort etc.

    Sorry, I meant more along the lines of technical competence and matching your competition. Let's say Witcher 3 has mass statistics as shown below, if you were to attempt that sort of game as an Indie it really doesn't matter about your status. You'll be compared to that game.!

    But as an Indie (meaning small to mid developer) it'd be practically impossible to reach an equivalent.

     
  4. Tomnnn

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    @ShadowK ah. Well the big difference there is going to be budget and time / effort I suppose. I'm seeing more successful games being made with Unity and Unreal every week. Most recent I guess would be lost ark online for unreal and cities : skylines for unity. Cities : skylines is very impressive and selling well at $29.99 :D

    But when it comes to particular games like The Witcher, well, how can you expect to compete with an in house engine? I guess if you had a super highly skilled team, you could modify the unreal engine to a point where it could start to compete, but that's going to take lots of time and money. I don't think you can get around Unity limitations save for extremely expensive workarounds or waiting on updates.

    Cities : skylines is being compared to EA's 'SimCity' and that comparison is making EA look bad and Colossal Order ltd look fantastic, and they used Unity3D :).

    So I suppose either you need to innovate and do the game better, or fight shiny vs shiny and lose due to technical limitations haha.
     
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  5. AndrewGrayGames

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    First - I'm a one-man band, who's made a grand total of about $25 off of my games. My current project is the first one I'm planning to actually sell, and not just offer freely on free game portals (though, I'll do that too after the initial spike falls off.)

    I look to my competition not to shape what I do, but more what I build. My competitors - including you...in fact, probably especially you, @ShadowK* - are very bright peole who in most instances have done this A) longer, and B) most likely a lot better, than anything I've yet done. Directly competing, as a one-man band, who cannot yet put a full eight hours per day into a games project, is a laughable concept. Increasing the amount of time I put into my current project - as suggested after my last one - has helped a lot with everything, but that's not the point.

    Instead, I play other people's games, and learn. If Game A has a neat way of approaching NPC sociology, I take note. If Game B has a cool boss fight, I take note. If Game C has a cool quest sequence, I take note. Pretty much, my competition isn't there to 'fight against'; instead, you're all the subject of my research!**

    As far as time goes, as much as I like @Gigiwoo's 12-week view of game development, I think there's situations where it doesn't hold up. Some experiences - like a RPG, regardless of hemisphere - could be done in 12 weeks, if and only if you've got a darn good pipeline for creating content. However, the penalties of a project taking too long are a reality too; one figure I've heard from my bosses at the day job said that a project begins drastically increasing it's chances of failure after nine months have passed. That might just be business software - which, is the day job - but it makes sense for games too. Of course, your game could 'work' with a longer dev scale.

    Also on the subject of time - my last project turned out to be my best one yet, because I budgeted time for bugfixes, which led to a slight uptick in my game's user ratings (I think something like +1.5-3.0%, but my design had problems to start with.) Had I scheduled time to properly polish the game, it would likely have helped still more.*** I've already scheduled about a month for nothing but hammering on the game, and I'm planning a polish phase of whatever half of my main dev phase turns out to be, because I really need to spend the time to make my game great.

    On scalability and productivity, I think that - and, I'm putting on my Captain Obvious hat here**** - that a bigger game more often than not is harder to be productive on, because the same amount of work achieves 'less' against the project. More simply, you could say that a project has 'weight' as a function of its size. This weight can help the momentum, from an emotional perspective ('holy crap I'm building a big JRPG!*****'), but it also makes initial work harder to pull off.

    That's why I'm working on what I'd call a 'JRPG short', with not much more than 3 hours of 'core' gameplay required to finish the main questline, but a small amount of optional quests that can be pursued to alter that play time (I want my shortest path for the speed runners to be about a 45:00 path, actually, and that involves getting the speedrunner reward weapon in the final dungeon, which becomes inaccessible after 1:30:00 of play time.) Content sucks, and I have less experience at making it; so, I've been spending time developing a campaign that requires less explicit content and leaves more to the player's desire to explore.

    I think to make something that is actually good, that I can make a real financial return on invested time with, and that leaves me feeling good about the project, going nuts with a AAA-length epic is the wrong approach...period. I see the AAA industry ailing under its own weight; the reason AAA games are becoming less relevant isn't because smartphone gaming 'is better'; it's got a different objective. AAA games aren't becoming less relevent because 'indie games are better'; for every successful indie game that is unique, artful, and ultimately lucky, there's 1000 others that horribly fail, indie games don't displace AAA. Instead, what's hurting AAA games the most is they're trying to be too much, and, they're failing at it.

    As an indie - whether in my current one-man-band state, or if I eventually join up with a studio - I don't want to be what I see AAA currently being. I see a small scope that provides interesting options to the player being the profitable, doable, and sustainable path forward.

    As a result, I feel that if you feel yourself choking under the weight of your project, like I did the side-scrolling version of Sara the Shieldmage, it's time to pull out the machete. If the machete would turn your game into stew meat, there are other genres to explore, other paths in the maze of making your next project.

    Finally, I don't think it bad that you've acknowledged how many concepts you've killed. Every concept I killed gave me some piece of what made my last project, and what's making my current project, be it knowledge of something not to do, or a cool component. Every killed concept drives me harder to finish something. In fact, Sara the Shieldmage is the first project that under normal circumstances I would have just 'killed', but instead I redirected it, and it seems to be taking, for the time being. We'll find out when I post my 'Nuuria Continent'****** prototype, which should hopefully be within the month.

    *: Grr! (Not really. You're pretty cool.)
    **: Muahaha.
    ***: Had I properly designed it in the first place, though, I might not care.
    ****: It's actually Master Chief Sergeant Obvious.
    *****: I'm not making a big JRPG, I value finishing things.
    ******: I will not stop plugging Sara the Shieldmage. It will be awesome.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2015
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  6. Deleted User

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    Well I suppose that's an extreme example, point being some times we have to re-factor and play to our strengths. Hence re-concept design and more procedural logical designs, just from the amount of work hours alone an indie could never compete head to head.

    But it doesn't mean we can't play to other strengths with the right tools to back us.
     
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  7. Deleted User

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    @Asvarduil

    Well it all spiralled out of control quickly, what started out as a 2 man hack n' slash turned into a mid sized indie heading towards stomping Skyrim..! Which err, thinking back around the whole situation probably wasn't the smartest plan.

    Which brings to your point, even though Skyrim was a good game most of it was empty. A lot of it just involved walking, so did it really need to be that big? Well in some ways I suppose, it certainly sets a feeling of scale but it doesn't particularly have much in the way of interesting game play.

    Plus the other offsets, in a game that size the amount of technical needs are horrific even with AAA engines but even more so with general purpose engines which causes headaches and sacrifices. I'm not even sure AAA can really pull it off never mind us Indies..

    Whilst games aren't about GRFX, your head definitely pops up when you see a good looking game. When you micromanage small chunks, you can pay more attention to details and gameplay. Specific art styles naturally look better than others and there's little anyone can do about it..

    Don't get me wrong, there are still city scape's and it's not exactly "tiny" but split into chunks and easily manageable which has equated to more enthusiasm as a whole.

    I'm pretty sure we could of pulled off the massive game, but I'm not sure if we'd of been happy with the end product. So with everything working against us, technicalities, limitations and technology equated to too many compromises.
     
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  8. GarBenjamin

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    One day I will try my hand at selling some games It is a ways off though. Mainly because I am just taking my time building all of the infrastructure necessary to do a bigger scale project. Currently I have only worked in 2D in Unity because I enjoy 2d retro style games a lot and because this way I can focus more on building all of the infrastructure I need to tackle more complex projects.

    My first game project (a side scrolling Operation Wolf style game) I learned the Unity system in general. To a degree at least.

    My second game project (a platformer) I designed an animation system, wrote a Notifications/Messaging System and experimented with different ways of handling global references.

    My third game project (a simple shootemup) I experimented with different ways of doing things here and there and just basically applied everything I had created.

    My fourth and current game project (an action adventure that can be seen in my Avatar) I continued exploring different ways of doing things. This time mainly focusing on world management and in fact started over nearly completely from scratch twice. This time I designed a collision system, interaction system, persistence system and world management pattern.

    Although what is seen in my little 2D game seems quite simplistic it is not simple drag n drop game objects here and there and so forth. The enemy subs each have a purpose. Gatherers seek out treasures and return them to the EvilCorp cargo ship. Hunter subs patrol and engage anything that may threaten the Gatherer subs. The subs communicate with each other for example if two subs are going after the same treasure the first one to retrieve it lets the others know "hey I got it" and so forth. Interactions are easily implemented resulting in forces being applied, "materializing" objects, destroying objects, releasing attached objects (such as the plants which all have a state which starts out as "rooted") and so forth. All of these things I need because I want to build game worlds that have more interaction available than what we have normally seen up to this point. In fact, I just finished adding the last thing I think I need to get back to actually working on the game itself again.

    Anyway, what I am getting at with all of this is I think the best way is to just make something smaller scale but do it with your future goals in mind. Meaning when you build your smaller scale game focus on building at least some of the systems you will need for the "grand" game you really want to build. You cannot expect to just come right out of the gate and compete with all of the technology & experience AAA companies have available.

    Even those AAA companies using Unity I am certain over time across multiple games they have continued to build additional systems, utilities and streamline their processes so they can achieve more with less work. Unity/Unreal/Whatever does a lot but there is a lot more needed to build a game like Skyrim than what any of them have "out of the box". It takes time to identify all of these needs and then to build them. So you make a game. Do the best job you can with it but keep the scale down. When you finish that game you have a well built system or two that you can use for future projects. So then you make another game (perhaps even a sequel) and you can take advantage of the tech you built and the experience you gained on the first game. With the second game you can focus on advancing other areas of the game perhaps building an NPC manager or inventory manager or combat engine or whatever.

    I imagine this is how all of these games such as Oblivion and Skyrim or Witcher 1, 2 and 3 were created. Building something like Witcher 3 or Skyrim right from the start would have been a crazy project to take on even with a massive size team available. So first they just built something good and during that project they created some systems and probably a utility or two and established some patterns to follow. Then using those as their starting point they made a sequel that pushed the game further towards where they wanted it to be building more tech and defining more patterns. This needs to be done in steps. Iterations. Not tackling such beasts all at once from the very start.
     
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  9. Deleted User

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    @GarBenjamin

    I think you hit the nail on the head there, I bet a lot of stuff from Skyrim were just tweaks from Oblivion. Most older games had texture limitations etc. so a lot of it was down to just upgrading the basics.

    Most of the legwork was done, now it's a matter of continually improving on it instead of taking on everything.
     
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  10. RockoDyne

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    One of the things I noticed from Skyrim was how most of it's new features were all things modders had done in Oblivion. I wasn't terribly surprised to hear a lot of modders were working for Bethesda either.

    At this point I've pretty much put down the most recent idea. It's not a bad concept, sort of a story based 4X RTS (and by story based I effectively mean explore the world to find the clues about this thing that's coming to kill you in an hour or two), but for now it's shelved. With "three months" and a team of two or three, it could actually be an interesting little experiment, but what it's going to take to make viable is more than should be on my platter for now.

    So now I'm just stuck in the bizarre nether region between projects where I have a million ideas, but none of them are viable. Worse yet is my default seems to be roguelike, which just sends me back into my graph theory hellscape. I'm really starting to think hell is other nodes.

    @ShadowK On one hand I kind of want to be frank and say you had to have seem this coming. If you were hunting a mastodon, you shouldn't be surprised when suddenly the black ranger calls it and it starts transforming... yeah, I'm prepared for that reference to go over most people's heads.

    On the other hand if given an artist who can model, I would jump on making a 3D zelda-like game, and probably find myself with the same sort of scale/scope issues six months down the line. I just wouldn't have to worry so much about comparisons and the art quality.
     
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  11. Tomnnn

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    What about the TES mmo and the skyrim multiplayer mod? :eek:
     
  12. Kiwasi

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    Some random thoughts.

    Fighting million dollar projects on shininess is a losing proposition. To win on lower budgets you main focus should be the basics. Make the gameplay engaging. That's why Skylines beat out Sim City. The core experience was better. As a long time fan of the sim city series I've been disappointed with later versions. Sure they look prettier then the dos based versions. But the old versions made me feel more like a mayor.

    Building on old engine is also a good idea. It's not just the brand that keeps selling COD titles. Its also cheaper to make the next COD title then it would be to make some other random game. I do the same thing. I wrote an object pool script once, and it keeps getting reused in new projects. I do the same with my social media plugin. And my advertising manager. Even down to things as basic as projectiles.

    Losing concepts isn't a bad thing. The general idea should be to kill concepts that won't work as fast as possible. Its easy and cheap to kill a concept as a concept. Its harder if you have six months of work invested into a game that doesn't work.
     
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  13. Deleted User

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    @RockoDyne, I'm not sure if it's sad that I do get that reference? :D

    Hmm, I'm not sure there is a way to "see it coming". Software always rapidly iterates and allows more, Unity 5 vs. Unity 4 has removed a lot of limitations. Although you should deal with what you have, it's been a VERY odd time to start making a game with everything that's been going on, like the new defacto standards in artwork Etc. Hopefully things will settle down for a bit now.

    Not to say that I obviously didn't understand that games split into chunks compared to open world would be far easier to pull off, some things are a given. Dynamic lighting impacts performance and looks far inferior to baked lighting, that's also a given.

    @BoredMormon

    I would of agreed with you until UE4 came out, some of the work being done by single artists / single dev's and students look far more impressive than anything I have ever seen in the AAA space. Don't get me wrong there's still a lot of umm yeah..

    As for the rest, yup :).
     
  14. Kiwasi

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    You might be right on this. Definitely a space to watch.

    These tools will also have their effect on the AAA industry. But I struggle to believe they will kill it. My general thought is that if one person can make something amazing with the new tools, then two people working together can make the same thing faster. Extend that logic out and 50 people with millions of dollars will always be able to do more then 1 person working on a shoe string budget. There are going to be some upsets. There will always be big studios that mess up due to inertia or management. There will always be small studios and individuals that punch above their weight. But ultimately bigger groups will continue to dominate. Even if it is through some indie becoming insanely successful and hiring on a hundred people for their next title.

    What might change is the pattern of dominance in shininess. There is that old meme that says something like "I tried this new thing called outside today, the graphics sucked". Games in general are getting pretty close to the point where there is not a huge amount more that can be done with graphics. It might not be in this round of engines, but pretty soon even the half baked amateur games may be able to rival the AAA industry for shininess. It will be interesting to see what becomes the next mark of a high quality game.
     
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  15. Deleted User

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    @BoredMormon

    Hopefully gameplay, a lot of space is being filled by Indies and with the lack of AAA games in the pipeline it's a good time to be an Indie, some of us just have to dare take it to the next level.
     
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  16. Kiwasi

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    An emphasis on good gameplay would be nice.

    As to taking it to the next level, that's going to have to be you rather then me. I'm currently too risk adverse to do the things that becoming a successful indie would require. Things may change in a few years.
     
  17. Tomnnn

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    Not to mention you can edit the source code to tune the engine to your needs. It definitely is the best option you have to fight shiny with shiny.

    It's hard to fight with 'free' and 'open source'. In the coming years who knows what tools and improvements will come out. It could kill more than it intends to and rule the market :/
     
  18. Deleted User

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    Well we seem to do VS. threads constantly, but when we come down to brass taxes there are only two engines still worth considering and both have cons. Which two isn't that many when you think about it.!

    The more you push the more reliant we are on our tools, the simplest design decisions can make a game a slugfest. For e.g. top down you only have essentially a small block in frustum at any one time, also you're always at a distance from textures. So you can get away with smaller res textures and you'll not have to really worry about performance issues.. Any relatively half decent engine could deal with this effectively..

    Flip that camera around into a front view and all of a sudden things become a 1000X more complicated, there may be tens of thousands of meshes in view at any one time.

    You'll have to find better occlusion solutions, you'll probably have to consider texture streaming. Hell even level streaming if it's big enough.. If the world is big enough you'll need point of origin reset or physics will bug out, then you start adding more ideas like destruction which requires Apex and then you'll see people close up so you need to animate speech etc. Draw calls become a major issue, lighting becomes more of an issue, shadows, post etc. etc. etc.

    All that from flipping a camera, the smallest decisions can have the biggest impacts. But if the correct tools are in place, you can mitigate time loss although if you were to try and implement all these solutions whether you have source or not you may never get it released.

    It's all about time and learning.. That's why I say go for something ridiculous, because that's the only way you truly learn.

    But in the end I'd rather have every option open to me.
     
  19. Tomnnn

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    @ShadowK a lot of that sounds like 'shiny' problems though for a AAA budget to wastefully solve. If you're focused on gameplay you can cut down your view distance for your camera and polycount in your models. Origin shifting is actually a function in unreal, but I heard it does terrible things in multiplayer, so some sort of manual rebasing method needs to be done as you would in Unity :D

    Shadows, pfffffff. Now I'm certain you're heading in the direction of 90% graphics, 8% story and 2% gameplay :p

    Hmm... can cryengine solve some of this for you? They seem to have some good tools for shiny-shiny. Or maybe you can have a successful idea and be taken in by a AAA company to work on it, a la Portal.
     
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  20. Deleted User

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    :D, that really wasn't the point. Obviously I understand UE4 can do it, world composition was one of the prime reason we investigated UE4. Also none of us have an issue doing whatever is needed, the whole point was a simple decision can have a drastic impact. As this discussion is really about game design and choosing the correct path, whether big or small..

    P.S I'd never touch CE with your barge pole.
     
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  21. Gigiwoo

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    What's the argument? Even with 20 years as a pro developer (10 in games), until I founded Gigi I didn't really grok how hard it was to do everything by myself! I've been there and back again, and now, through lots of hard-earned experience, I feel like I can see through these posts to answers.

    'Small projects' are not a panacea. In fact, many game designs are impossible as small projects. And, it's also true that small projects are the most efficient path toward prototypes, failing fast, and truly grokking what is needed to finish a game. Leveling up is not just a concept for players.

    From my personal experience, these are dangerous words:
    • Shiny
    • Open-world
    • MMO
    • Multiplayer
    • Open-source
    • AAA
    • Cry Engine ;).
    PS - We are gonna find some game design in here, right?

    Gigi
     
  22. AndrewGrayGames

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    You did post a list of dangerous words that lead to much ado, and no results. Just avoiding those ought to be its own category of guidance in terms of 'what/how to build.' ;)

    Seriously, though, I think this discussion has yielded some useful what to build/how to build comments:

    What do I build?
    • Something with a limited scope - a full-factored simulation of a fictional reality will never get done. You have to cut some stuff.
    • Something with soul - the audience can detect whether or not your heart was in what you made.
    • Something you can do - If you're not capable of photorealistic graphics, don't make photorealistic graphics. Make what you know how, but push yourself to learn new techniques, insofar as they don't interfere with your production. As a rule: if you're not absolutely sure you know how to do it, assume that you can't, unless further research/thought proves you wrong.
    • Something with the right content density - most games have content. Give what your playtesters would consider the Goldilocks amount: not too much, but not too little; the density should be just right.
    How do I build?
    • With your soul - If you don't 100% care about something in your game, don't do it that way. Find a way that you want to care about.
    • Iteratively - small bites at a time. Even Skyrim wasn't written in a day (actually, it was a few years with a multi-million dollar budget, with a large team of talented, and specialized people.)
    • With a machete - Don't be afraid to cut stuff. Scope will creep, it's up to you to trim it the way you would your hedges: with steel shears.
    • With an eye to quality - Schedule time to functionally test your game, it will improve the result
    • With an eye to quality - Schedule time to polish your game to the best of your abilities.
    • With an eye to quality - Schedule time to let people play your game and give you feedback.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
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  23. Tomnnn

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    I'm glad you listed this one first. It's a tough idea to swallow, but almost nothing gets done with the mentality that you're going to make a whole universe.
     
  24. AndrewGrayGames

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    Good point. I added a useful link that one that should be even more helpful.
     
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  25. Deleted User

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    What argument? I could stand here all day telling people how I believe things should be done but it's always good to collectively pool knowledge for the "greater good".The point is time limitations, knowing the limitations of the technology you work with and placing yourself in a position to punch well above your weight.

    I know factually all this is possible, you just need specific streamlined approach and the tools necessary to achieve such tasks. The dangerous words you speak of all aren't "dangerous" if you know how..

    Shiny (not difficult if you have all the tools and chase a certain aesthetic), there are certain types of games that pander to "shiny" and reduce risk.

    Open-world, again it's not difficult via procedural generation and specific toolsets to create "open world". The difficulty there is filling this openworld with something meaningful aside from showing grand vistas. Skyrim being the operative example of this. Way too much walking for my likings..

    MMO, well got to give you that one.. MMO's are "bat S*** crazy" territory.

    Multiplayer in a game like Unreal Tournament is pretty easy to make if the supplied tools are up to task, if were talking about MMO epics again "BSC".

    "Open Source" again, very useful if you find yourself in a situation where you need to fix a problem.

    "AAA" Lot's of discussion on this topic, they are just three letters the content is a different matter.

    CryEngine, well if you're sadistic I'm sure you'd get along just fine with it. But personally I'd do simpler things like create a ship capable of warp speed, or do a full sized replica of the empire state with lego.

    A lot of this, tools, tools, tools and being smart with tools to speed up delivery in ways one wouldn't normally think of.
     
  26. ostrich160

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    Yep
    I had this nice idea for an IOS game like frogger, but with a twist I dont want to mention because I came up with a new way to use it
    But I had to scrap it, after realizing people would think Im just jumping on crossy road's success.
     
  27. Tomnnn

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    You should have made it and then gave it to your friends :D See if anyone points out similarities to crossy road.
     
  28. Gigiwoo

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    What's wrong with 'jumping on ABC success'? All forms of entertainment do this including movies, books, and songs - games are no exception.

    Gigi
     
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  29. snacktime

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    Technical limitations are not something you want to be bumping into midstream. If that's why you changed directions, you need to look very closely at why you missed those going in.

    When scoping out a project I always look for the unknowns first, and resolve them right at the start. They generally fall into one of two categories. One is a solved problem. Maybe not solved by me before, but I know it's solved and I move on. The other category is an unknown, at least to me. Ideally I do some quick research to find out if it's solved. If not I might have to dig further. There are actually very few unsolved problems, so this whole process generally requires no coding at a..

    I do that on every major aspect of the project until I've gone through the entire list. Sometimes this is a 10 minute process, sometimes it's a few days.

    So that leaves the stuff that's not easy to anticipate that can still end up going sideways. That happens, but the above makes it happen much less often.

    I also always bounce my ideas off at least one other person, ideally more. It doesn't matter how good/experienced you are, you always miss stuff. Less experienced developers often don't do this enough. Sometimes because they are afraid to show their ignorance, not realizing that it's completely ok to not know something, but it's not ok to not know and not ask.

    Once you realize that basically every problem has been solved, it changes how you approach complex projects. It's been close to a decade since I was on a project where we had to change course because of technical issues we didn't anticipate. Not that those didn't happen, they happen all the time, but the right process limited them to things we could overcome and move on without major course corrections.
     
  30. Deleted User

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    You can of course prepare as much as you like and in many ways it does help, not every challenge has been solved either. What happens is we trade off, problems may be solved in your project scope but not necessarily ours or anyone else's. If you've managed to crack a form of realtime GI that has no impact on performance and looks good you let me know. :)

    I'll be very open and honest, in the dawn of "next gen" I've been struggling with trade offs. There's always problems and too many options. As the goal for me personally was always to make games in the vain of Bioware, whether a Mass Effect or Dragon Age game.

    With that in hand, the issue really is what to do about it? I own a company but originally I was just a plain old simple graphics / engine developer. I've never tried to make a large game before and I'll fully well admit that, I made a hack n' slash which I put together in Unity 4 and it took about 3 months? THEN "slap my face" continued on towards making an Openworld RPG based on a Bioware theme. Well Unity could not handle that, the lack of 32-bit editor etc. was a massive problem. (Which I knew would be but at the time there were no other choices)..

    Also GRFX, the game originally was meant to be released three years from conception so it had to look good. Or I'd be crushed by the competition as soon as it came out the door, so I ended up going down the same path as Jove (@Aieth) did. Four months later things were looking much better and I started to employ people to help out because it was too much for just the two of us.

    About six to eight months ago the project became too large for Unity to handle and became way to complex. So that's when we started experimenting with CryEngine and Unreal 4, CryEngine needed a specific workflow (scaleform) 3dsMax and it wasn't worth it. Especially as it was a pain in the ass to use, lacked documentation and if you hit a specific bug in the closed engine you were up the duff without a paddle.

    The release of UE4 really changed everything, we spent months upgrading Unity but it still it wasn't enough. Workflow was sooo slow with lack of tools, I don't trust third party providers to do it so it's a task me and another engineer had to undertake.

    So I took a break and started experimenting with Unreal 4 and soon realised we'd have to play to the engines strengths or due to performance issues release it to a niche market of powerful PC's kind of a like Crysis, I wasn't willing to accept that. But coming back to Unity I know for a fact would require about six months to a years work before I even began to start the game. UE4 is a scary engine and also buggy, which means releasing a game and potentially having to wade through that 2.5Million lines of source to find specific issues is a real turn off.

    But I guess we'd have to come to that bridge when it comes to it, to make sure UE runs anywhere near our specified min specs we'd have to re-design the game from the ground up, which might not be a bad thing but now here I am in limbo wondering where to go next.
     
  31. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    I've found that having everything planned out helps up-front, BUT... it still always boils down to... whether YOU as a person can remain interested in and committed to/enjoy the project... if you don't, no plans in the world will help get it done. I've drifted away from perfectly planned out projects many times. For me personally I've found that I tend to `flow` somewhat, which means I can be really interested in something for a while, and then the flow keeps flowing and totally changes my motives and interests. I'm not decisive and rigid in that way, so that makes it hard to stick to a project. And if you try to stick to something your heart isn't in right now, it just feels like work. You can overcome some of that with a 'work really hard' ethic but that's not much fun.
     
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  32. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    I think having milestones to achieve helps with that, actually.

    I have that same problem too - I generally know what I want in one of my games, and plan up to the point where it's better to let my creativity take over. However, I drift. A lot. And, as a tech-geek, I love working on my technology, sometimes when I should be buckling down on actually completing something.

    A while back, a user called me out and said, "Hey, Asvarduil, you're good at making tech demos...but, where's the game?" That was my call to action - I shook myself free of the endless web of technology and enhancements and stuff and created a small-scale release that got me good feedback.

    I'm about to do the same thing again. On my project, my plan thus far has been to do the world-building on one of the game's three continents, but it's taking forever, and my productivity is suffering. I need to do something about that. And, today on the bus, I had a plan, and it involves a small release....
     
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  33. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    This a hundred times. I haven't come up with a single idea, ever, that people couldn't observe similarities to past games in.

    Also, even if two people/teams were actually developing the same game concept, I'm pretty confident they'd come up with really different games.

    Also also, most highly successful games have really obvious influences to anyone who's in the know. I don't think that there's any correlation between high originality and high success. Or perhaps could even be that they're inversely correlated.
     
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  34. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    I could live with this. As much as we complain about originality the same movies always make the biggest splash at the box office.
     
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  35. sicga123

    sicga123

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    The main difference between AAA strudios and indies as we have come to know them is that to AAA developers it's simply a business it's not their dreams, they're not making the perfect games.

    This is one of the main reasons I no longer attempt to collaborate because the last time I tried I laid out all the assets that were available and told the other guy that this is what we have to work with, there is no money for anything else. We can make this type of game because we can find reasons for why these assets are there. Within 2 weeks this guy is adding features because he thinks he's a great game designer, although he's never actually sold a game or designed a commercial project at all, but he came from the field of dreams mentality. I shelved that project and it still hasn't been made because when I have a basket ball and two baskets I'm pretty certain what game I have to make, I'm not going to go and buy a rugby ball to add to the basket balls because I'm pretty certain that won't be the end of it. It is also quite possible to make an exciting game with the basket ball and the baskets, the rugby ball would add nothing to it at all.
    . .
    When actually making games to put food on the table and not as a hobbyist in the bedroom of a night, one soon learns how to control such stuff. I personally only play boardgames because I've designed so much of this crap with limited scope and boundaries etc that it's just a job and in the same way when I worked in an office I wouldn't fill out forms at home for pleasure I am no longer even able to play bloody games, although I keep on buying one's that look interesting and promise myself I will get around to it.

    @ShadowK - you're actually competing with games that have not come out that you don't even know are being made, or how they'll look. Totally the wrong approach. In AAA necessity is the mother of invention and art is just as much part of optimisation as modelling and art is what sells these games and when making a game the art and how that can be optimised and molded to meet the projects needs is the starting point not the prohgramming. Really you should just have stuck with Unity and made it work using a bit of trickery. A lot of design stuff we now take for common was done out of necessity when first used. You should have taken the same approach. By all accounts the next gen consoles do not stand upto the PC. No one else could build a 3D engine to rival the one's currently used by the large publishers, anyone making a game at the stage you started your project had the same limitations including resources and availability of good artists. So who exactly were you competing with that had you convinced your game would be overshadowed immediately unless you upped the fidelity of the art? Besides Unity is not AAA game engine, even Unity 5 isn't. It's getting there admittedly but as far as I can see for a lone developer or a small team it can deal with everything an indie should want to do with it.

    The one key thing I learned working in AAA is that a game's audience is always a statistical bell curve. There will always be a small percentage at either end with extreme opinions on the game whether that is because the assessment is deserved or the people holding the opinion are just outright insane is always a matter for debate. That realisation gives one great freedom because no matter what one does one will be criticised for it.

    Plus a great many games that are follow ups are released because that is how a company can cash in on the original development costs it's also why game series will have small additions to the engine as each new game comes out because the economics of the situation dictates the reuse of a game engine and mechanics as often as possible to amortise risk.

    In my experience making games is like any other job, bloody dull. It's why during the summer holidays I test small projects to keep my interest up.
     
  36. Deleted User

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    I'm really not sure what you're getting at here? 5%? No it doesn't bother me, I already have to pay a much larger portion to steam, it just up's the cost of the game to cover it. Simple as that..

    I'm in a fortunate position, where I can make a loss on our first game by a certain percentage and it doesn't mean a lot. By promotion of said game over a time period, we can then go on to build another and then hopefully break even or make a profit. I have no investors, loans or anything to worry about..

    Building games that matches well known titles of yesteryear is difficult in Unity, the cost in man hours offsets any benefit to using it for basic stuff. UE is a complete package end to end, iteration is much faster with masses of superior toolsets and it's graphically at the level we need it to be out the box. I prefer Unity, it's far more intuitive yada yada, but it's the wrong tool for the job at hand. (Not to say we don't use it for other stuff).

    But again, I'm not sure what your point is really? Myself and quite a few other team members worked for AAA companies, from engine development to art so it's not a lack of experience or understanding that's the driver.

    Anyway, we have since scaled back the game and decided to take a different approach in areas and plan to have a demo released in 6-8 months.
     
  37. sicga123

    sicga123

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    Ok, my apologies, bit of misunderstanding there. I wasn't suggesting you should stay with Unity, I've just never been in a situation where I could change course and switch engines partway through and delay development. Always had to use and make do with what I was given. Basically always worked with a limited budget and spent quite some time polishing turds. Clearly not a situation you're in so none of that is a consideration, best tool for the job is always top trump anyway.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015
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  38. Deleted User

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    @sicga123 It's no problem, it's great to be in a relaxed position and not having to polish a brownie :)..

    @Asvarduil

    Let's get my bullet point ON! Yeeeahh!

    • The type of game heavily dictates complexity, technology and challenges.
    • Segmentation can seriously help in shinies, a game doesn't have to be small but if it's well segmented you have the option to use lightmaps, which heavily helps performance, graphical super shinies etc.
    • AAA is a misnomer, as bullet points above describe. It's nothing to do with the gas giants, it's about the game and the studio behind it. Which can make it a good game a bad game, a S***ty looking game or a graphical marvel.
    • Knowing when too much, is well TOO MUCH. I see a lot of games with artwork stuck in for the sake of artwork, it's jam packed full of detail and it has the opposite effect of what was intended it just looks cluttered. Imagine how many hours they wasted! :D
    • Bigger teams aren't always better, in fact they are generally very in-efficient.. People often trip on others toe's, dream about what they're eating for lunch, some lack skill, don't communicate, management makes awful decisions, red tape and of course. MEETINGS about DAMN MEETINGS!.
    • Learning tools is much faster than building tools.
    • Block outs with shiny materials help you understand layouts much better than the plop and drop methodology way of working.
    • Bullet points are cool.!
    I hope this thread might now start making a basic level of sense. (maybe)..! :)
     
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  39. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    @ShadowK - Yes, bullet points are most awesome. Now, if only I could write a bullet point that produced other self-replicating bullet-points...

    On AAA - You're absolutely right that the name has to do with the studio and less what they produce. That being said, to the audience, and less experienced developers like me, there's the additional point that "AAA" is synonymous with certain expectations of visual fidelity and length. Visual fidelity is hard, and costly to produce. Length always sucks, because you're either making content, which is hard and expensive, or you're exploiting filler, which overdone comes off as lazy. Just see Dragon Age Inquisition for an example of both in action at the same time. It's beautiful, and long, and you know it took a bunch of people a long time to make with blood, sweat, and tears, all of which are probably 90%+ Mountain Dew. I suspect that Lyrium in the Dragon Age universe might be inspired by it, but that's a personal guess.

    Back on topic - in my lengthy post/pseudo-rant above, I don't mean to "attack AAA", I hold that segment of the industry in the best regard - I want to match and find ways to surpass your skills and output within my professional lifetime, and I'm already finding ways to do just that. I just fail to see how the current expectations of, and methods of delivering on, a AAA title can possibly be sustained on the current scale, let alone that of the 'console golden age' of the 1990s to mid 2000s, even five years into the future. One way or another, "The AAA Way" is crushing itself under its own weight, and that's something no amount of spin can undo; it's already started and progressed to a decent degree. For the sake of professionals like you - let alone my own business aspirations going forward - I hope means of averting this can be found, and a renaissance of top-notch, high-value games created by seasoned veterans of the industry can come about. Devaluement of games bodes ill for all of us who want to participate in this industry. That's all I'm trying to say with that.

    Anyways, on my current project, I'm seeing many of your bullet points in action. What I've done for both performance, and ease of development, is taking a 'large' scene (it could be my continent, or something smaller like a forest), and segmenting it certain ways that lends itself well to mesh/texture batching - especially mesh batching, because I'm using pretty much UV unwrapped cubes to define the geometry of my levels, similar to what I did in The Hero's Journey but with fewer vertices, and a more consistent art style. Working on multi-floor maps, like Nuuria Castle and the Generic Church scene, it's also a blessing because it lets me organize geometry, doodads, triggers, and other stuff on a floor-by-floor level. It seems to my unstudied eye like a generally good idea, that I berate myself for not realizing sooner.

    On content density I have only this to say: if your scene can compete with Mr. T's neck chains for a random passerby's attention, you've overloaded your scene a bit. Where's that machete?

    Finally, something I did this week that's helping is using existing things to speed up the process. I'd all but forgotten that I'd bought the First Fantasy asset pack on the asset store...it's loaded with useful particle effects and doodads. I'm way too fond of rolling my own; sometimes shelling out a bit of money for a speed advantage is a very good thing. I need to do that more often, I'd be selling more games that way.
     
  40. sicga123

    sicga123

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    @ShadowK - Yes, sure. AAA isn't really the size it's the professionalism of the team. If you've worked making games of any type as a hired hand i.e. paid a salary to make a game, whether art or programming then you're in that AAA club (obviously this statement isn't 100% true in every situation, but it's a fair generalisation). I've never managed to complete a collaboration with anyone that has never worked in the industry because too much time is spent explaining the process in detail, almost as bad as having to manage above which I've seen done before.

    It is definitely better to use tools already built than roll your own. I never understood the logic of people who prefer making their own but are also using a game engine built by someone else.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015