Game Producer Quest, Part 18

As I write this blog, the back of my head is filled without a mental checklist of what I need to do before I travel to San Francisco for this years Game Developer’s Conference.  It makes me think about how last year my attention was divided between schoolwork and the conference itself.  This year, the most stressful thing will probably be figuring out the how Caltrain works.  It’s been years since I’ve taken a train anywhere, but with that said, I think things will be okay as long as I pay due diligence and plan ahead of time.

There’s been quite a bit of goings-on in the gaming world; I mentioned the SimCity debacle, courtesy of EA/Maxis a couple of posts ago, but just as big a story in my mind is the resignation of EA CEO John Riccitiello.  Here’s his message on the EA blog.  Personally, I’m not sure what to think about the news, in that him holding himself accountable is well and good, but for him to proclaim the personal assertion that EA is in a better position as a company while himself citing EA’s declining financial results seems contradictory to me.  I can appreciate positive spin to a point, but sometimes the less said, the better.

In my mind, there’s another slight slant in this, and that’s EA’s Origin service and how they operate.  I’ve been keeping abreast of the situation, and one thing that I’m somewhat dismayed that the gaming press isn’t tackling is that one cannot get a refund if one buys a game through said service.  Thus, when EA announces that more than a million sales have been made, I wonder how much of that number included people that were denied a refund, simply because it’s in Origin’s terms of service?  If it’s in their EULA that everyone pretends to read but ignores, the legality of it appears fine.  But despite having the legal right, it’s a horrible policy in my opinion, one that fails to build any type of positive relationship between the company and the consumer.  Add to that the apparently blatant lies about the need for SimCity (traditionally a single-player gaming experience) to be always online, and EA will need to do something beyond the status quo to buy back consumer confidence and earn consumer trust.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before.

As a side note, Rock, Paper, Shotgun really did a great job reporting on this, so kudos to John Walker (no, not the Captain America replacement from the 90’s aka U.S.Agent) on being an example of strong, gaming journalism.

Also, I can’t help but be embarrassed to be in the game industry at the moment.  It’ll definitely pass, but when I think about the blunders various companies (Ubisoft, Blizzard, EA/Maxis) have made these past couple of years to try to integrate an always online component into a single player experience and how we have always shamefully fallen flat on our face in the attempt, it makes me sad.  I often say that no one bats a hundred, but so far we’re a perfect 100% in failing at this endeavor.  Why are we constantly screwing this up?  When I ask ‘why,’ I mean the real reason(s), not the public relations bullpoop reason.  A part of me wishes I could get in touch with Google’s CEO (or summon Steve Jobs spirit from the grave) about this subject, just to see how they would go about it.  Because right now a perfect 100% failure rate is nothing to brag about.

I was going to also mention Richard Garriott’s interview regarding game designers and his inability to frame anything in a positive light, but I do have packing and planning to do, so maybe I’ll save my thoughts for the post-GDC blog.

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Game Producer Quest, Part 17

So late last week, Kotaku ran a story regarding Richard Garriott aka Lord British, creator of the Ultima series, wanting to develop a new RPG called Shroud of the Avatar.

I actually have never played any of the Ultima games, but my commentary comes from a bit of confusion and concern over the project, specifically over how the project will be funded.  By and large, Richard Garriott is a multi-millionaire, and unless there’s something I’m unaware of, he hasn’t squandered his wealth like some famous pro athletes that come to mind (former Celtic Antoine Walker immediately comes to mind.)

So why does he need run a Kickstarter campaign to fund this project?  Why isn’t he investing his own money into something he purportedly loves?  Being a multi-millionaire, it’s not like he would be dead broke if he did so, unless there’s something we don’t know.  Also, the amount he’s asking for makes me wonder as well.  The goal is $1,000,000, which after Kickstarter fees will probably be closer to around $700,000 to $750,000.  Still, that is a vast sum of money, which again makes me wonder why a rich man is uncomfortable playing with his own money to produce a game he loves, but is more than comfortable playing with the money of others to do so?  And let’s say that he no longer is rich; that much of his wealth has been depleted for a variety of reasons.  That doesn’t make things better in my mind.  If this is the case, one could argue who is at fault, but I find that argument tenuous at best.  Unless someone or a group of people literally stole nearly all his wealth from him, he has to be held at least somewhat accountable for the state of his own personal finances, simply because we all are in the end.  In this event, the question in my mind then becomes: why would I want a man who mismanaged his own personal finances to manage my money on this project?

To be fair, the project does intrigue me.  It looks like it can be a lot of fun, if the project goes through.  However, the amount of money he’s asking for is offsetting, and not everything Garriott has done in the past has been successful, such as the currently dead-MMO Tabula Rasa.  A part of me wonders if he’s out of touch with the current game industry, and aware that by-and-large while passionate, gamers are not made of money.  Then again, I’ve been wrong before.  As of this date, the project is just shy of $900,000.  With 22 days left in the fundraiser, there is very little question in my mind that the project will be successfully funded.  If that’s not a vote of confidence that the project will be completed successfully, I don’t know what is.

Despite my misgivings on money management and not having been a past fan of the Ultima series, enough information has been divulged on the Kickstarter page to pique my interest and have me make a donation to the cause.  Of all the Kickstarter projects I have backed, this easily makes me the most nervous as to whether I’ll see a return on my investment.  It’ll definitely be interesting to see how much fruit this one will bear.

Game Producer Quest, Part 16

A couple of topics here and there to put my weekly post to bed.

Fire Emblem: Awakening – Finished my casual game.  The story was quite good, and it was fun to not have to worry about units dying or restarting a map that was 95% completed because a unit did happen to die.  Right now, I’m working on my classic mode game, where I am exhibiting the latter behavior of restarting maps so that units will survive the shackles of permadeath.   Assuming I get around to attempting a lunatic difficulty game, I suspect that on such difficulty I will have to learn to let units go.  In fact, the first third of a lunatic game will probably be the “Frederick Show”.  I’ve heard that one of the DLC maps is littered with enemies that don’t fight back, making it an ideal place to grind and breaking the game wide open on such a difficulty.  However, the only DLC I have is the “free” one included with the game.

SimCity – There is a new iteration of SimCity that released this past week, and apparently many people are reporting problems with merely playing the game that they paid for.  There’s a hilarious review here that sums up the problem far more efficiently than I ever could.  I didn’t buy the game, as I realized I have more than enough games to play, but I do feel sorry for those that are having these problems though, and think that tying the game to EA’s Origin service may have been a mistake.  It’s primarily a single-player game, so playing it offline should be well within the user’s abilities as a paying consumer.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel – My understanding is that this will be the final DLC for Mass Effect 3, which puts this franchise to a close as far as Commander Shepard’s story.  There will be undoubtedly more Mass Effect titles, but none with Shepard.  Knowing my buying habits, I’ll hold off on purchasing until it’s on sale.  Incidentally, I love the weekly sales Xbox Live has, though I think you have to be a Gold member t partake.  Just played through the Karateka remake, and while it doesn’t quite match up the original from my childhood, it was definitely well done.  But I digress; I haven’t played Mass Effect 3 for many months.  I think as far as my feelings towards the game, they echo those that I felt when I finished Fallout 3.  In the latter (spoilers!), my character sacrificed himself, and despite the replay value and inevitable DLC, I didn’t return to the game until more than a year later, because my character’s story was over.  Mass Effect 3 is similar for me in feeling; Commander Shepard’s story is over, and thus I feel no need to play it.  I’ll probably boot it up late this year or early next year, but I feel no need to play it at the present time.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – I enjoyed The Witcher 2 immensely when it came out on PC, and thankfully the developers, CD Projekt RED, announced the sequel a couple of weeks ago to be tentatively released sometime next year.  That reminds me though, I still need to play through the Xbox version, but what little of it that I have played, the controls still feel better on PC, at least in my opinion.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before.

Still, I’m pretty excited about this game coming out.  This and Dark Souls 2 definitely make me an excited gamer.

In non-gaming commentary, being a Boston Celtics fan, I had to comment that the loss of Rajon Rondo, my favorite active Celtic at the moment gutted me weeks ago, but the team has played inspired basketball since then, which make me happy if anything else. They’ll definitely reach the playoffs as a lower tier seed, but the question in my mind is can they make a deep run, and be competitive like they were last year?  I wouldn’t count them out, but obviously smart money is on the Heat repeating as champions.  C’est la vie.