Diecast #11: Don’t Starve, Thief Troubles, EA Layoffs, and Kotick’s Millions

  By Shamus   Apr 30, 2013   164 comments

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For various reasons, we had to move our recording to Saturday night this week, which meant Ruts couldn’t make it. Jarenth was nice enough to step in and act as the guy that never gets a word in edgewise. Thanks Jarenth!


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Show notes:

00:40 What’s everyone playing?

Josh is playing Surgeon Simulator 2013, The Witcher, Monaco, Crusader Kings II, and Miasmata.

Jarenth is playing Don’t Starve. You can see his full write-up – with gameplay and screenshots – over on Blue Screen of Awesome.

Chris is playing Civilization V, Poker Night 2, Dyad, Lego City Undercover, and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Shamus is playing…

12:40 Don’t Starve

For those that are new-ish, here are the programming projects I mentioned. Here is the official Don’t Starve site, and if you get the game it might be best to know about the Don’t Starve Wiki.

28:30 Bad SimCity news of the week. YES, THE NIGHTMARE IS NEVER-ENDING.

The problem this week is that the latest patch: A) Finally got the multiplayer stuff working more or less, so now everyone can see that the big multiplayer features are shallow, uninteresting, and inconsequential. B) Broke a ton of stuff that had worked. Now the simulation – such as it is – is dysfunctional and broken. For example: Tiny towns producing the pollution and sewage of a large city, crashes, and TAXI CITY.

33:40 Thief has a troubled development cycle.

46:15 EA lays off hundreds of people.

59:00 Bobby Kotick got (or gave himself) an 8-fold raise.

I’m always wary of taking about executive salaries because the topic inevitably leads to arguments over politics and (by proxy, even if people don’t realize it) debates between Austrian and Keynesian economics. It’s a natural an inescapable outcome. The idea that “it doesn’t make sense to pay anyone more than X dollars” leads very quickly to “there should be a law to prevent it”. And then suddenly it gets prickly, since we’re no longer talking about how things should work but about how things must be made to work. The two sides have drastically assumptions about how people behave and about how they should relate to one another. It’s a lot like the gun control debate: Two groups with different ideas about the effect of the laws and also different ideas on the right of society to make such laws in the first place.

I would like to avoid this as much as possible. Let’s stick to salaries as they relate to the games industry, and see if we can’t steer clear of politics. We all know that that argument turns out.

And because I’m being careful: When I was talking about “getting the incentives pointing the right way”, I think I muddled what I was saying. I think a better analogy is this: You pay your bodyguard more than your cook. You do this not because being a guard is more physically demanding (guards stand around) requires more training (your cook has a master’s degree in culinary arts) or because of seniority (your cook has been with you longer) or personal need (your cook has a family and your guards are mostly single guys) or any other difference between the two jobs. You pay the guards more because it’s personally dangerous if they turn on you and you want to ensure their loyalty.

Now, is it worth it to Activision to pay Kotick the budget of an entire AAA game every year? I suppose that’s where the discussion is. I’d love to see the business case for it. In any case, if Kotick was an exceptional leader I wouldn’t be griping about how much he makes. But he’s not.

ALSO – and I realize I’m really perverting the idea of “show notes” here by writing an entire article worth of footnotes – Chris brought up the Moneyball movie. I want to point out that the book had a huge impact on my perception of how business worked. The book set in motion a lot of ideas that led to my current writings on EA. I realized that it was possible for large groups of well-compensated and well-educated business people to be absolutely wrong about something for a very long time. I realized that the dispassionate, detached, and analytic eye of an engineer could be just as useful in business as it was in software engineering. Or even fast food.

A Hundred!2020204Many comments. 164, if you're a stickler


  1. DrMcCoy says:

    You pay the guards more because it’s personally dangerous if they turn on you and you want to ensure their loyalty

    Just the same with a cook who can poison you and your whole family…

    • Shamus says:

      When I said “turn on you” I wasn’t thinking of MURDER. I’m more thinking you’d care more about the personal loyalty of the people who guard you and your stuff more than you care about the guy who cooks your food.

      Like, a guard doesn’t need to want to kill you to be dangerous. He can look the other way when things aren’t done properly, blab sensitive information, gossip, nap on duty, and ignore when other guards behave this way. Someone who thinks, “This is a really good paying job and it would be hard to replace” is going to worry more about you and your stuff. Sloppy cooks lead to crappy meals and are easily spotted and replaced. Sloppy guards are a vector for trouble of all kinds.

      I’ll admit it’s not a perfect analogy, but the idea I’m trying to get across is that you can pay someone more money than is strictly required to get them to work for you, and they’ll probably be a lot more loyal.

      • Sombersome says:

        Isn’t it illegal for higher-ups to give priveliged information to rival companies? If not, it should be. Then you can dissuade that kind of behaviour without having to basically bribe the CEO with astronomical sums to make them stay quiet, even if they get laid off or leave for a competitor.

        If it is, why are you worried about a CEO leaving the company? A company should not rely so much on a single person that their personal decisions on where to work affects it in any major way.

        If you’re worried that the guy won’t be incentivized enough to fulfill his responisibilities, make him more accountable for any shortcomings on his part; their responsibilities are the main reason those salaries are so high after all.

        No amount of personal responsibility is worth $60 000 000 a year: The president of the USA makes somewhere along the lines of 1% of that sum, think about that.

        Edit reason: Grammatical errors, lack of clarity.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It depends on the contract.But just because something is illegal,doesnt mean people wont do it.What if the rivals offer him to pay for all the penalties of breaking the contract,plus some substantial extra?Then there are stuff that skirt the law,like him accidentally leaving sensitive information on a computer that then gets conveniently stolen,and stuff like that.

          Rewarding someone for good behavior is often much better than trying to penalize them for bad.

          • Sombersome says:

            First of all, I can’t say the “solution” you’re arguing for is very good. It’s like paying the maid a bonus so she doesn’t steal the cutlery, it makes no sense: If she was going to, she still will, only now she makes away with even more of your money. If she is an upstanding citizen, the extra money won’t be a factor. You have to be able to expect that your employees will follow the law, otherwise don’t hire them in the first place.

            In regards to the muddy cases, that’s a problem for a court of law, not the company that hired the guy. And even if he isn’t found guilty, how many companies do you think would hire a person who’s been dragged to court on suspicion of illegal insider trading? Also, if the company in your example isn’t penalized together with the employee giving them information, then that is a flaw in the system that should be rectified.

            To your last point: Who says you shouldn’t be doing both? But rewarding someone just for doing their job doesn’t solve anything, is wasteful, and increases the gap in standards of living.

            • AyeGill says:

              Well, if the maid steals your cutlery, obviously she will no longer be working for you. If you’re paying her less than minimum wage, this is not a big price to pay. If you’re paying her well, it is.

              • Sombersome says:

                What’s your point?

                • krellen says:

                  The point is that the maid’s cost-benefit analysis for stealing the cutlery includes losing her job as a maid. They is a much higher cost if it is a well-paid position than if it is a poorly-paid position, thus making a well-paid maid far less likely to see stealing the cutlery as a sensible option.

                  • Sombersome says:

                    But the cost/benefit analysis for someone in a position like Bobby Kotick is already through the roof, trying to skew it further won’t have any effect whatsoever. I was using it as an example to point out that for all but the genuinely poor, whether they will turn to thievery or not is not a question of money, which is even more true for someone who already has more than he could possibly spend sensibly.

                  • That whole cost-benefit analysis didn’t work terribly well at just about every major bank recently.

                    It’s also often changed when the CEO/CFO knows they’re not going to be at Company X for long (I think the average stay is around 5 years) and their policies… this might seem strange… tend to be centered around making sure the stock price will be pretty good when they leave and can cash in their options. This often takes the form of policies that are quite sensible if you were a retiring CEO/CFO, but not so much if you want the company not to require a lot of work to keep afloat down the road (laying off loads of skilled employees, deferring maintenance, cutting rather than innovating, etc.).

                    • Shamus says:

                      I strongly suspect that being a publicly-traded company has all sorts of really unhealthy effects on how the company is run. You’d THINK that the pressure of all those shareholders would push you away from obvious, stupid mistakes. It’s like crowd sourcing your company vision. This should be a net positive effect that would gently encourage to avoid being overly litigious, politically connected, polluting, or having bad working conditions. (Or whatever it is that makes people mad.)

                      And maybe this was true at one time. It certainly seemed more true when I was younger. But now so many people invest several levels removed from the market. They put their money in a pile, the pile goes in a mutual fund, the fund is shared by many people and is invested in many companies and administered by people with no other agenda than “make money right now”. The CEO just wants his stocks to go up. The fund manager just wants his fund to go up. The person saving for retirement just wants their savings to grow. Most people don’t even know what companies they’re invested in. And even if they do, they didn’t buy the stock because they think the company has a great long-term plan. They probably don’t know anything about the industry its in. The buy the stock because last year the company did well.

                      Nobody is thinking long term. Nobody is thinking values. Nobody is thinking products. This whole “new leader every 5 years” thing is absurd. It’s like a pilot who gets paid not for keeping his plane in the air, or even for how high he can go, but for how long he can spend just going up. The optimal strategy (for the pilot) is then to go nose-up, climb until flame-out, and bail. The stock tanks, the plane dives a bit, and then the next pilot comes in and points the nose up again.

                      I don’t think it’s an accident that the best run company in the industry (Valve) is privately held.

                    • Thomas says:

                      Google were seen as quite radical when informing stockholders that sometimes there were just going to do good things without any direct profit necessarily motivating them. So your statement probably isn’t too controversial

                  • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

                    This is the logic behind why judges in the US (Federal level -states do it differently) are paid so well -life tenure and a nice paycheck is supposed to make them bribe-proof.

                    With CEOs I don’t imagine bribery is the major concern though. Possibly they are worried about Kotic being poached by another company. But I wouldn’t ignore the possibility that Blomberg isn’t reporting this well. It says that 55 million (that’s basically all of the extra money, since his base pay was 8 million -so his salary increase is only 2 million) was in stock options which he can’t have for 5 years (that’s the vesting period). So his pay is actually $105 million over 5 years -assuming the stocks hold their value and he cashes them at the end of 5 years. All the comparisons in the article are obnoxiously vague on whether they are comparing total compensations, or Kotick’s total compensation to everyone else’s salary.

                    • Phantos says:

                      I don’t think it’s an accident that the best run company in the industry (Valve) is privately held.

                      Valve is not in the games industry. They’re in the hat industry. I knew they stopped caring about video games the moment they unleashed Left 4 Dead 2 on an unsuspecting populace(while refusing to give their customers the one thing they’ve ever asked for).

                      I really wouldn’t put Valve any higher up than Activision right now. If we’re talking about corporate attitudes, policies and results, then considering them the unsung heroes of video game development is either ignorance or nostalgia. I think this is actually just a case of Valve not drawing too much attention to their faults while everyone around them is loudly boasting about theirs.

                      Better PR and funny Gmod videos are the thin line separating the “Best” from the “Least-Worst”.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              “Who says you shouldn’t be doing both?”

              Um,you?I never said that you shouldnt do both,I merely explained why using just the law without some extra incentive is not going to be the best option.

              Also,people arent just binary switches with rigid morality.Person X will not always steal while person Y will not always be honest.Not to mention that you cannot always judge how likely someone is to be a bad employee.

              If you pay your staff less than average for the job,you increase the risk of them doing something to you out of spite,necessity,getting a bribe,etc*.If you pay them more than average,you decrease that risk.

              But salary is just one of the factors.Of course that increasing someones pay wont automatically increase their loyalty.Finding that sweet spot is the key.

              Then there is the inflation and sense of progress.If you keep someones pay the same for decades,they can notice their cost of living growing steadily,or just feel stuck in life,which may also lead to bad performance.

              Not to mention that you want the most skilled person for the job,and the better someone is,the more likely it is someone will offer them more money to quit,which will also leave you in a bad position.

              *This doesnt have to be something purposefully malicious either.An underpaid guard can just not care enough about their job and be more prone to not noticing when someone is robing you.An underpaid ceo may blurt out company secrets when they get drunk,or forget to secure sensitive information more often.

              • Zak says:

                I agree to all this and would just like to add one aspect:

                A CEO’s pay is a direct result of his abilities.

                …not directly his leadership abilities but the ability to convince the board to give him more money.
                This means either he does his job so well that they saw fit to make him stay at all costs or he managed to make his performance good enough, or he’s buddies with some of the people making the decision, or he convinced them he had a brilliant plan, or … don’t know. Maybe he’s just got power over some members of the board in a different way, and knows how to play it.

                => You don’t get this type of income without talent but it does not have to be the type of talent that is best for the job, the company, the product, and lastly the consumer.

        • Steve C says:

          “Illegal” is the wrong term here. Illegal means against the law, ie there was a law made by regulators and it was broken. This is distinctly different from breaking a contract. Releasing “trade secrets” are often (not always) protected by both but “illegal” is too strong a word.

          But here is the rub when higher ups give privileged information… power. Power trumps all. When you have a salary so large that you can afford to have a lawyer working full time for an entire year only on your salary you have a lot of negotiating power both before, during and after working for a company. Someone in that situation can strategically break their contract.

          • Sombersome says:

            You’re painting a picture of a broken justice system if you claim all you have to do is throw money at some lawyers to get you out of a contract: It’s only a few notches above being able to bribe the judge himself.

            Compared with that, I’d prefer to think that the reason these people are paid like they just helped cure cancer is that it’s the norm, and that you basically have to outbid other companies to get anyone to take the position.

            • Shamus says:

              It’s not a broken justice system. It’s just that the best justice system in the world can’t be guaranteed to fairly arbitrate between wealthy parties with dense contracts and conflicting accounts of what happened over long periods of time.

              I wrote about it once:

              http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/7951-The-Litigation-Hammer

              If you don’t want to read the whole thing, the short of it is that contracts give you an edge if you have to sue the other party, but if time or money is an issue for you then you’re going to be at a disadvantage. I say this from personal experience. The lesson I learned in the late 90’s is that you can sue anyone*, at anytime, for any reason, provided you’ve got the money.

              * The “anyone” in this case is understood to mean “anyone you have a contract with”.

              • Sombersome says:

                “It’s not a broken justice system. It’s just that the best justice system in the world can’t be guaranteed to fairly arbitrate between wealthy parties with dense contracts and conflicting accounts of what happened over long periods of time.”

                Makes you wish it was entirely handled by the state, and both parties were forced to use a limited number of publicly appointed lawyers in the vast majority of cases(i.e those not involving the state itself).

                Anyway, can’t the company’s lawyers help things like this by making sure that the wording of these contracts are entirely unambiguous in a legal sense? Won’t the losing party be required to pay for the legal costs? What I’m trying to get at is that I find it completely absurd that a business can be implicitly extorted for tens of millions by an unsaid threat that their honchos might go to someone else with information they should not be legally able to share.

                • Steve C says:

                  You can only have contract extortion when there there is an inequality of bargaining power. Billion dollar companies and CEOs of those companies are equals in negotiating power. I don’t understand your position nor moral outrage.

                • Shamus says:

                  Unambiguous means simple, and nobody seems to want simple contracts. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, a business thing, or what. And even if the contract is short and simple, there’s always the problem of proving what was said and when.

                  My rule of thumb is: Contracts are fine if the other person wants one. But I’d never sign a contract with someone if I wouldn’t trust them WITHOUT the contract. If you have so little trust that you need to cage them in with a 20-page document of tiny print, then you shouldn’t be trusting them with your millions of dollars in assets.

                  I admit this is a folksy way to view things, and maybe this approach just can’t work with huge companies.

                  • Mike S. says:

                    Unfortunately, simple contracts are only simple as long as there isn’t a dispute. As soon as one arises, it turns out that each party had a different idea of what a reasonable person would interpret that clause as requiring, which generally turns out to be the idea that favors them.

                    They may even be honest in their belief. (Both because there are often multiple ways to read a contract and because people are really good at confirmation bias in favor of their own interests.) But whether they are or not doesn’t matter as much as it probably should.

                    (A professor of a class I once took on the application of formal logic to law had a standing bet that any legal language above a certain– fairly short– length had provable ambiguities. As far as I know, no one ever took the other side against him and won.)

                    Sticking with people you trust is a good first-pass policy. But consider the divorce rate: of people entering into one of the best understood sorts of contracts with the person they trust most in the world, half wind up with a deep mismatch of minds down the line. Contracts should ideally start with goodwill, but have to be able to function (at least to the extent of allowing an orderly dissolution) when it’s disappeared.

                    Pretty much every fine-print clause in a contract is there because someone, somewhere raised the issue in a lawsuit, and later contractors are trying to preemptively avoid that dispute. (For the same reason, state marriage laws are closer in nature to those 20-page contracts than a simple legal mandate to love, honor, and cherish until death do you part.)

                    And yeah, it’s a mess, and leads to contracts that no one reads let alone consciously agrees to. But it’s a really tough thing to walk back for risk-averse companies and their employees. Deterring a few customers because of the giant sheaf of legalese is comparatively invisible. Losing a big lawsuit because you deleted the clause that might have protected you? Hope your resume’s up to date.

                    • Ithilanor says:

                      I don’t have any big insight, I just want to add this quote:
                      “Contract law is essentially a defensive scorched-earth battleground where the constant question is, ‘If my business partner was possessed by a brain-eating monster from beyond spacetime tomorrow, what is the worst thing they could do to me?'”
                      (From Charle Stross’s blog here.

                  • Zak says:

                    If you’ve ever played AD&D, you know the concept of rules-lawyering. And how many words someone needs if they want to take as much advantage of a set of rules as they can. And that it’s not a thing of beauty.

                    I think that’s close to how these contracts are made. Nobody likes surprises in this business, so every eventuality and every loophole (which can be mathematically proven to exist in every set of rules) is covered. This can only be done by adding more and more rules and clauses.

                    This sort of forms the basis for the lawmaking equivalent of the 2nd law of thermodynamics: Complexity (i.e. entropy) of rules always increases in a closed system.

            • Steve C says:

              It has nothing to do with the justice system being broken or not. Contracts are not written in stone. If a clause says that you forfeit your salary if you do X, but then later another company offers you 200% your old salary, but you are going to have to do X then you are strategically breaking your contract in order to make more money.

              This sort of thing comes up all the time at the corporate level. Note that we are talking about employment contracts and privileged information here. As I said above, breaking a contract is not illegal. It’s not anywhere close to bribing a judge. If you could not break an employment contract then you would effectively be a slave.

              And in this specific instance we are talking about Bobby Kotick. He is the poster child of breaking contracts especially breaking employment contracts. He does that often as a negotiating tactic.

            • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

              Common Law torts are pretty good at hashing these disputes (they ought to be after just shy of a millenium). To use a downthread example, if another party induces Kotick to breach his contract, that party can be sued (tortious interference with a contract) by the other party to the original contract.

              I would think problem is actually to be found in the new methods and financial instruments we use in these contract agreements, many of which are only 3 decades old. Relative to the old Roman Laws on contract interpretation, stock options and performance incentives are undeveloped. This is as much economics as law (probably why there is now a field of law that blends the two), and judges are not particularly well equipped to handle the disputes. Chuck in some IP law and it’s a guaranteed mess. But give it time.

        • bloodsquirrel says:

          If a company is making $6 billion in revenue a year, and a particular CEO can increase that by a mere 1%, he is worth $60,000,000 more than his alternative.

          The CEO is also the man setting the tone and direction of the company; that’s not something you want changing on a yearly basis.

          Of course, the whole “8-fold raise” isn’t actually true; the largest part of it is to be paid over 5- years.

          • Steve C says:

            Yes and no about the 1% example. This is a simplistic way to look at it. On the surface it is true, but when you delve into it, it is not.

            • Syal says:

              How isn’t it?

              • Steve C says:

                A corporation is a large collection of internal and external forces. It’s impossible to attribute that 1% to one person. It’s also impossible to say what would have and what would not have had happened with a different person at the helm. Those things are possible in a smaller organization but not in a large one.

                That 1% could really be attributed to a host of other things. For example a major competitor goes bankrupt, a new accounting method, a more efficient process that was started 3 yrs ago that was only expected to start paying back after 3yrs. In a large corporation the CEO will take credit for all of that. The board will want him to take credit for it so they can say that hired the guy who did those things. There is zero incentive for anyone to rock that boat and lots of incentive to jump on board.

          • Zak says:

            If you let your CEO keep all the additional earnings the company makes because of him, why did you hire that guy in the first place?

            Also, how do you determine the CEO (of all people) as the cause of any revenue increase? I think there are quite a number of other people who have an influence on how well the company does.
            Of course you can never possibly evaluate the individual contributions but if you could I don’t think there would be many CEOs who came out at even 1% responsibility for a particular positive change in company performance (which would equate to 600k$ in your example), let alone 100%.

      • You’re hiring guards that are all “he’s”?

        Well, there’s your problem right there! Hire female guards instead.

        *grin*

      • bloodsquirrel says:

        I recall reading that household servants for famous people tend to be paid well beyond the value of their actual skills because having people with a degree of loyalty to them is important. After all, the cook might not slack off on his job but he might be leaking rumors to tabloids.

        That’s also partially why CEO compensation tends to be less about their base salary and more about stock options- to keep it in their best interest to keep the stock price as high as possible.

      • DrMcCoy says:

        Sure. But if you pay your cook so little he becomes easily bribeable, you suddenly opened up a nice backdoor for someone out there to murder you, without having to even bother with the guards.

        Cleaning and maintenance personell are in a good position to acquire sensitive information as well.

        Does that sound more like a plot of a book/movie/game than real life? Sure, but so does your analogy. I’m sorry, but if you don’t want this particular discussion here (and I can understand, even agree with this notion), then just don’t. Cute and simple analogies really help.

        • Shamus says:

          What?

          You’re deliberately introducing new elements to the analogy to break it, and then telling me it doesn’t work. If cook doesn’t work for you, substitute gardener. Of driver. Or whatever. If you refuse to imagine a scenario where you’d be more worried about the loyalty of one person over another then the analogy isn’t the problem.

    • Thomas says:

      If you’re paying your cook so little that they want to murder you, you probably shouldn’t be hiring any staff at all =D

    • Chamomile says:

      Even without what Shamus said below, a guard is far better equipped to successfully kill you as compared to a cook. Plus, the guard can murder you by inaction by just refusing to work for you, whereas if the cook refuses to work for you it just means you need to eat out instead.

    • Zak says:

      Not replying to Bones, just to the thread in general:

      Wooow! So much politics and no flamewar yet?
      I’m impressed by the discipline (and in many cases insightfulness) of the posts. Great.
      I like this place. Wish I could debate politics with some of the people here (but Shamus is still totally right in not letting me)

      … how many posts have you deleted from this, Shamus?

  2. Surprised none y’all heard of Miasmata seeing how it was at least prevalent enough to warrant a Game Trailers review.

  3. X2-Eliah says:

    Hm. So, all’s not well at the supposed star-child of a game dev company, Eidos Montreal? I have already expressed concern about Thief being a massive financial failure, even though it will sell very well, on account of the 5-year dev period. I just hope that whatever comes out in the end is at least fun to play.

    Also, all that mismanagement stuff and the frequent staff changes – those are bad signs. Very, very bad. I am from here on officially worried.

  4. Sheer_Falacy says:

    Why are the album, artist, and genre set differently every Diecast MP3? At least set the Genre to Podcast – TV & Film certainly doesn’t seem right.

    No comments about the actual content of the podcast, what with not listening to it yet.

  5. IcingDeath says:

    Is it just me or are the sentences cutting out extremely often in this episode…

    • Trix2000 says:

      I noticed it happening a fair bit too. Usually I don’t at all.

    • Nick Lester Bell says:

      It happens when one person stops talking. This particular podcast opens with a lot of short sentences alternative said between the hosts. Thus you got a lot of the clipped ends all at once. As they got into the topics, and each person started talking in several sentences at a time, it was far less noticeable for me.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      It’s mostly Josh I think. I think there is something wrong with his setup.

      • Josh says:

        We didn’t use our normal recording method this time because I wasn’t going to be able to edit it.

        • Steve C says:

          I’ve noticed your mic being bad in previous podcasts. Normally it goes loud and soft. This time it was doing that plus cutting out. Normal recording/editing or not, your mic is reducing the quality of the finished product in a way that the other mics are not.

  6. Psithief says:

    Your show notes saved me from listening to the podcast and thus from slowly getting those details over the course of an hour.
    Nice!

  7. rrgg says:

    Ah, Don’t Starve. I almost feel kind of bad about saying a bunch of negative things about it.

    Here’s something nice: after playing minecraft for so long it feels really, really good to just drop stuff on the floor without worrying about it despawning. My base actually looks like my room in that game.

    I’m not so sure whether it’s a game best approached blind/with few hints or with one nose in the wiki. I continued my usual tradition of spending more time in the wiki than the actual game and it felt as though it all seemed to dry out rather quickly.

    Oh hey, I should actually listen to this podcast tomorrow.

  8. JPH says:

    Don’t Starve is sort of one of my dream games come alive; I remember playing Minecraft and thinking, “Man, I like this survival element, but I don’t really care for building elaborate crap. If some dudes made a game that was all about nonlinear survival in a hostile environment, I’d be all over that.”

    I initially learned about it because it was made by Klei, the same guys that made Mark of the Ninja, another dream game of mine come alive. They’re quickly becoming my favorite people ever.

  9. Kai says:

    I am Austrian and find it weird to find out that there is a whole school of economic thinking named after us. Particularly as, since the beginning of the 20th century, Austria has much more followed Keynesian economics, with the pursuit of a social market economy and such.

    I am sorry to bring this up, as it might lead into topics Shamus explicitly does not want to be discussed here, and it’s fine with me not to start an economical debate. It’s just strange to learn about before-unknown associations with your country of origin…

    At least it’s not something sexual. ;o)

  10. Kdansky says:

    As for gun-control: That issue will implode on itself very soon. 3D-printing is already able to produce functioning gun parts, and will only get better and more common. In a decade it will be impossible to even have gun control, when everyone can download and print out the parts anyway. Then it’s literally the same problem as music DRM, and we all know how that worked out.

    • Mormegil says:

      As opposed to lathes which are commonly available now and are currently capable of making the gun parts that 3d printers cannot?

      I’m staying away from the general gun control debate (in the words of the podgecast, “that place is Ravensholm, brother”) but I will say that I remain unconvinced on the impact of 3d printing on firearm availability.

      • Karthik says:

        I think the situation Kdansky is describing is more like software piracy: that there will be little to no skill involved in 3D printing your weapon.

        I’m not sold on the potential of 3D printers to change the face of small scale manufacturing either. At the moment, 3D printers seem like cheaper, less reliable CNC machines–very handy for making doorstops and chess pieces, but with a steep training and experience curve to mount if you want to make anything that is not a function of just its shape or form.

        My experience with 3D printing is quite limited, though, and harder functions have been democratized (and “commoditized”), like computing. So who can say?

        • Thomas says:

          I’m scared what’s going to happen to Britain when that breaks out. Even our police force don’t need guns at the moment.

          I was so angry at that American who was actively working to release open source 3D gun blueprints. That was really close minded

          • ? says:

            Don’t be scared. So far there is no way of 3D-printing parts like barrels, bolts and firing pins, the stuff that is essential to gun operation and handles the extreme conditions of firing a bullet.

            As far as I know the open source AR-15 is possible only because in US only one part of this weapon cannot be legally bought without government supervision and they created a plastic version of that part. In Europe you would still have to illegally buy so many parts that you might as well illegally obtain a whole firearm. Plus getting ammunition for it would be illegal as well.

          • Steve C says:

            The fact that it’s open source shouldn’t matter. The only types of people that will benefit from it being open source are legitimate uses. Someone who uses a gun illegitimately/illegally won’t care in the slightest if it’s open or closed source. If your issue is with the knowledge being available at all rather than open/closed source, it’s not like you can put a lid on knowledge.

            • Thomas says:

              That is most definitely true. But that doesn’t mean we should be aiming to develop that knowledge as soon as possible. There’s a lot of benefit in waiting before unleashing uncontrolled gun availability into every developed country with gun control and much less in actively funding research projects to get it done as soon as possible

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          One could argue that these are merely function because of their form, but the company only exists because 3d printing works for small production and rapid prototyping. I’ve seen discussions on mailing lists with them and they turn around idea to shipping product in weeks, not months.

          http://www.cyclopital3d.com/

    • DrMcCoy says:

      You will never be able to easily 3D-print your whole gun, for the same reason you will never be able to 3D-print-pirate Lego blocks:

      3D printing is not able to get you the precision and stability of other manufacturing methods, like common injection molding in Lego’s case. 3D-printed Lego bricks will not fit and stay that well together. 3D-printed gun parts will not be able to stand the forces of a gunshot, especially not if you’re printing in plastic.

      From an economic standpoint, 3D-printing is also far slower and more expensive than other methods to be done en masse. Doubly so for material that prints with a binder in powder and has to sinter, like metal or ceramics.

      Also, as someone not living in the USA, I find all the arguments against gun-control and your whole pro-gun culture in general completely baffling…

      • Steve C says:

        3d printing just keeps getting better and better. It’s now doing things that were impossible 10yrs ago. In another 10yrs expect it to have similar leaps in capability both in what’s possible and the cost to do so. Think about it terms of Moore’s law more than as static technology.

        • Zak says:

          As an engineer, I’d say that 3D printing it has not yet taken the place it will one day, but it will never replace the whole rest of manufacturing.
          3D printing is no more a way of mass producing things than having a printer at home became a gateway to publishing (or even just copying) a book. It’l only ever be good for small quantities, although for varying (currently increasing) values of “small”.

    • kdansky says:

      Since this discussion seems to stay civilized, I will add a few details, and I’ll answer here to everything I’ve seen up to now. I know a decent amount about it because I write CAD software for 3D-printers and milling machines, and I follow these news relatively closely.

      > 3D-Printers can’t actually print guns.

      That is what’s changing. In the US, only some parts of the guns are actually controlled, other parts (like the barrel) are about as common as metal pipes. The relevant parts can already be printed. If you google for it, you will find a few guys (mostly gun nerds and at least one actual weapon smith) who have successfully printed and used them for a few hundred bullets. Sure, a real part would withstand a few thousand bullets, but that’s a bit of a moot point. Gun designs can also be adapted to be printable, if certain parts just don’t work very well. Lastly, we can print a ton of materials already, and I’m sure at some point we will have stuff that you can make guns out of.

      > “If only people would not put the plans online.”

      That doesn’t work. As long as the plans are relatively simple, they will be leaked at some point. You can find any number of recipes to make bombs. It’s really not all that hard to make a blueprint for a gun. Guns are really simple compared to what we can and want to 3D-print. If you’ve ever taken apart a modern gun, you know how simple most parts are. At some point, this information will get online, and we will never be able to get it back down again.

      It really is a question of time until gun control is completely impossible. If not five years, then possibly fifty, but there is no avoiding it. 3D-printing is coming, and there will be ways to make weapons with it, if not guns, then explosives, or crossbows, or what have you. I hope we have a better solution by then, like educating people better and preventing poverty and drug-abuse in the first place, without criminalizing normal people. If nobody wants a gun, gun-control becomes moot.

      I’m not in favour of people owning guns. I’m in favour of looking at the matter in a rational light.

      • ? says:

        How can you print a barrel or any other steel part that has to withstand the heat and pressure of a gunshot? You can’t melt it and apply drop after drop, and even if you could you won’t get the same effect as with conventional metalworking due to different micro-structure of the material. Until you have nano-assembler or Star Trek replicator, there will be no printing metal. And so far there is no plastic or resin that can equal metal. Discovery of such material is as likely as development of portable laser rifles.

        • DrMcCoy says:

          3d printing metal already exists. You print with a glue in metal dust, and then bake it in an oven. Ditto for ceramic.

          • ? says:

            Yeah, but it’s not the same material as cast or forged metal. Cemented carbides have their uses, and stainless steel has its uses. They are not interchangeable just because they are both iron mixed with carbon.

      • Thomas says:

        I wasn’t saying that we should try to control the information or even that the day isn’t coming just that I’m worried what it will be like when it does and people who are actively researching the technology because of pro-gun agendas make me pretty angry because they aren’t looking at the wider consequences. Eventually people with bad motives will do it anyway, but it’d be nice if more people decided to stop working on the country because they’d considered what it will do to countries besides their own (and what it will do to the suicide rates :( )

    • Humanoid says:

      Make love, not war. An optimist would believe 3D printing will be mostly used for the discreet construction of, er …adult toys, rather than guns.

      As someone not at all familiar with guns, my instinct is that while you might print something that mechanically is a gun, you’d still have the alchemical challenge of turning a mundane substance into gunpowder, and then using it to construct usable ammo. Now maybe that’s an easy thing to do, but as a layman, even if I had possession of a 3D printer, downloaded plans and printable materials suitable for firing, I still wouldn’t have the first idea on how to deal with the ammo thing.

      • Klay F. says:

        Ammo is pretty much a non-issue since loading your own rounds is almost trivial in this day and age. The tools to do so aren’t prohibitively expensive either.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Just to play devil’s advocate, I would say it will still completely possible to control 3D-printed guns–just control the 3-D printers. Whether or not the actual part is expensive, I don’t see an industrial piece of prototyping equipment (i.e. a printer capable of making something besides a fragile plastic approximation of a real design) being something someone will ever be able to reasonably buy for personal use. All you have to do, then, is make the companies that buy and use the machinery obtain a license which will be subsequently revoked if they create restricted parts indiscriminately.

      Of course, that would never fly in a million years with the gun lobby, but there is a biiiig difference between the up front costs of a pirate who can break a piece of software in his basement on a few hours labor and a rapid prototyping firm that has to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours before they make their first part. That investment can be used as leverage if the government wanted to use it.

  11. Trix2000 says:

    Hearing the talk about EA buying up companies that don’t profit reminds me way too much of my previous job – we kept acquiring and creating these new product divisions that supposedly related to our overall company mission but that we had NO experience with otherwise… and then despite all the hype and positive feedback we got from higher management, it turned out almost none of them made any money.

    It took the board checking the books and noticing that we’d be out of business in a few months without some change that finally got things turned around, but at the cost of basically cutting ALL of that (and the people who worked with those). It was a very hard time of very low morale, and I was one of the very few people who survived/stuck around to see things actually get better following some MASSIVE changes.

    It was an interesting and crazy experience, and I can’t help but think that sort of thing happens too much these days. Heaven forbid they fix and refine existing stuff to be profitable before chasing new horizons and risks.

    Ignoring the rant above, though, I’m not actually bitter in the slightest. It was quite the educational experience and at least the work environment was always friendly. Can’t imagine EA has it nearly so well these days…

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ah,dont starve.I was actually looking forward to Shamoose getting to this one because it opens one very interesting discussion.First of all,let me preface this by saying that I absolutely am not trying to antagonize you.Your taste,your thing,it doesnt bother me.I just find this discussion interesting,that is all.Now that the confusion is cleared,here goes:

    I tried dont starve a bit,got the hang of the mechanics,then stopped playing.But one of the games it felt similar to me is ftl.You are dropped in the middle of things,you will die after some time,you have to prepare for unknown things,you rely very much on luck(if you get dropped a way away from rocks,for example,you wont be able to make advanced stuff for a loooong time),when you die you have to go back to the beginning,the game explains nothing to you,you have to figure it out on your own.

    Now,the interesting thing is,these two games are just different enough that ftl appeals to me,but dont starve doesnt,while its the reverse for Shamoose,and Im curious as to why that is.Is it because of the more open ended feel of dont starve versus the sort of confined universe of ftl?Is it the crafting that is scratching the minecraft itch for him that I never had?Is it the setting of fantasy versus spaceships(in space)?Is it the strength of individual foes from whom you can run away in dont starve,but cant really in ftl(well you can run,but its sort of pointless most of the time)?Is it the explicit drive forward in ftl versus the muddled one in dont starve?Or is it just that Shamoose prefers shaving to keep sane while I prefer opening all doors to snuff out fires?

  13. Maffie says:

    I love Don’t Starve. For those who feel the game is a bit easy or there isn’t much to do – there is Adventure Mode.

    Find a portal in your Survival world, and get thrown into a randomly generated more difficult world with a specific theme (it might have no rabbits, or constant winter, or raining frogs, or islands) – survive 5 adventure worlds in a row without dying to complete the story mode. Epic stuff. You can only take 4 items (or stacks) between adventure mode worlds, but you retain research unlocked on prior adventure mode worlds in the same playthrough.

    Die in adventure mode, and you’re dumped back to your survival world to try again. I have only made it as far as World 2 so far, but it definitely makes the base game a lot more difficult and interesting.

  14. Re: Chris asking what the CEO of Activision does.

    I asked myself that same question, along with several others. In doing some research, whatever he’s doing for 64 million bucks, it left him enough time to be also on the board of directors for Coca-Cola, so whatever he’s doing for either company, it appears to offer a lot of free time. I’m trying to imagine having even a six-figure salary somewhere and justifying it by saying I had to go get another large sum by working at a different company. This is a day and age where if you’re given X amount of work to do in a day and you get it done by noon, obviously you’re in the wrong for not staying in the office late.

    From what I was able to find, just about the biggest justification he could have is that he invested a ton of money years ago in Activision, so he “owns” as much of the company as another majority stakeholder I guess*. But from his early days talking about independent games and innovation and what have you, if 2012, the year he’s being given this money for, is any indication, that’s out the window. 2012 was nothing but Mists of Pandara, licensed games for Disney, and CoD sequels and DLC. If that’s his leadership, I really don’t get how he could be said to be doing a good job. It looks like the studios are basically riding a crest of cash in the form of sequels, licensing, and WoW subscriptions, and that can’t last forever.

    Anyway, I’m going to stop there because I’m getting perilously close to ranting about how taxes and “income” vs “income not classified as income” are handled in this country, which I’m sure wouldn’t make the site owner pleased.

    * It always made me wonder if you could ever be said to own any part of a company with a board. Like, if I was the CEO, and I wanted to take one of the office printers home, could I because I “own” the company? I’m sure there’d be a load of paperwork baloney done for me to let me take home the printer, but I don’t think it’s ever listed as “mine” in the first place. This leads to the a kind of sci-fi idea of corporations being like super-organisms that have their own emergent motives independent of most of the “cells” in their makeup. I figure it’s only a matter of time before one goes on a rampage in downtown Tokyo.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      The only way I can see of you getting that printer is either you issue it to yourself because you need it at home to work, but the company still retains ownership, or you buy it off company in exchange for either money or your stock in it.

      • It’s a weird part of corporations, and really the funny (sad) part is on the opposite end when you want to get rid of something: You can’t, without a receipt. I worked in an office for years that had an old Tektroix printer and a bunch of Sun workstations (no disk drives, RGB monitor hookups, CRT monitors with curved glass tubes, etc.) that nobody wanted or used, but they couldn’t just get rid of them or it’d cause some kind of accounting catastrophe. I was asked by a mystified manager why no charity would take them, and I had to explain that they were trying to give away the equivalent of a diesel car that had 300K miles on it, required oddball tires you couldn’t get anymore, and whose fuel door had been welded shut.

        This metaphor worked especially well because a ‘company van’ purchased to move the office to its current location had been in the parking lot for so many years, it had been paved around, twice.

        The short-lived Dilbert cartoon show even did an episode that started with this premise where the cast made a fake employee so “his” cubicle could house all of their unwanted/obsolete technology that they couldn’t toss out because it was company property, which seems to belong to no one but will bring down the wrath of the gods if you throw it out, even if it’s trash.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      When you own stocks you dont actually own part of the company,you own part of the value of the company.So you wouldnt be able to take that printer home,but you could persuade the board to have it sold,and get the money from that sale(though I doubt youd ever manage to persuade them to get all of the money from the sale).

    • False Prophet says:

      I don’t know enough about economics to feel comfortable discussing the topic in depth, but I offer these as data:

      Activision stock over the last 10 years

      EA stock over the last 10 years (for comparison)

      I think, in general, via a combination of the law and how detached they are from day-to-day operations, shareholders only really care about stock prices. Incidentally, one of the easiest ways to boost stock prices in the short term, is layoffs.

      • Trix2000 says:

        Considering the price affects the value of whatever shares they own, it stands to reason they’d be concerned about it. The value of the company they are investing in determines how much value they ultimately can get out of their investment, which is generally the reason people invest in the first place (albeit, not the only reason).

        I should also note that it isn’t that unusual for prominent CEOs and other such higher ups to serve on other company boards (multiple even). I don’t know the true extent of it overall, but I’ve known one or two people who were in that sort of position.

        • It stands to reason they’d be concerned about the value of it until they want to sell that investment to someone else. If laying off people or announcing some other short-term action that boosts the stock price before sale is what’s needed, then that’s what’s often done. As companies are no longer owned/run by those who founded them in some kind of passion for what the company did, said company often gets more interested in how to keep the stock price up and make profits over actually delivering the innovative or quality product they did in the past. This isn’t to say that it’s evil intent that does it in every case, but I don’t expect someone who isn’t Steve Jobs to do a really bang-up job at Apple, especially if their background is in accounting or business management and not in technology/design or with a real love of consumer electronics. Tim Cook might do well for Apple, but his bio as a business wonk doesn’t make me think he’s geeking out over gadgets and their possible uses or aesthetics.

          There’s a very large break between what you or I see as of value and what an investor does. A house to us is a place we live and may even have lots of sentimental value. An investor sees a house as a way of increasing their wealth and if slapping a cheap roof on it will do the job of a 30-year tear-off to make a quick sale, so be it.

          • Trix2000 says:

            Yeah, I think you put it better than I did. And I did mean ‘value’ in terms of money rather than what the company actually makes/has, and the question becomes more whether the people at the helm care about more than just that (which unfortunately, most don’t seem to).

            In theory, smart investors would recognize how much power there can be in making customers happy over short-term gains, but its so much easier for them to just never get involved and thus only see the road right in front of them. And it’s not likely to change so long as they still make some money off of it (however much it ends up or however good/bad the company is doing).

      • Thomas says:

        Wow I hadn’t realised how bad 2008 was for them.

        In some ways the Activision/EA thing annoys me though. Because no-one in Activision management earned that high stock price. A developer they owned happened to revolutionise the shooter genre but that wasn’t clever management decisions because they’ve not managed to recreate that success with many other brands. They rolled well and now they’re leaping in piles of money and they can do whatever they like and it’s going to be useless before they do it. CoD will roll on with them or without them. And WoW is leaking subscriptions but even that doesn’t matter because they’ll still have made mountains by the time it runs dry

  15. Nimas says:

    As someone who only really gets gaming news from this podcast, this story kind of surprised me

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/22/the-power-of-silence-why-the-simcity-story-went-away/

  16. Weimer says:

    One wonders if all of this is just like the creaking of the hangman’s office chair; an omen of an imminent death of the gaming industry.

    Then one wonders if an another crash would be better for us and for the industry.

    Then one wonders what game/system/peripheral is going to revitalize videogaming this time. The Virtual Boy v.2 thing? Half-Life 3?

    I doubt the crash will happen, but it is fun to think about the failures and the possibilities.

    • Thomas says:

      If suddenly everyone became fed up with CoD style games, or the major publishers fold up (which I guess is possible) then you’ll see companies like Valve come the forefront (although actually, a loss of those sales would really hurt Valve because they lose a lot of their Steam skim)

      But in many ways, for us at least, I imagine it’d be a lot like this
      http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/06/01
      The indie games would probably survive and come even more to the forefront

      • Weimer says:

        Agreed. Indies will survive as long as internet itself survives. Free advertising is a major boon for them.

        (I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter, so consider all of this as random thoughts of a random internet denizen.)

        However, I think that idealistic little companies like Valve are kind of screwed.
        If the big players kick the bucket, the disposable income of millions has to go somewhere.
        This will cause the smaller companies to grow economically and thus they are inclined hire more people to cram out more products.
        This leads to bloated giant corporations and dilution of craftsmanship/womanship, which takes us back to the square one.

        Also.
        I don’t know if Mr. Newell is the reason why Valve has been so successful, but eventually he will die/be replaced by someone who gives much less freedom to his/her workforce. Focus of the company could shift from artisty to effectiveness, and someone will stomp on a box of kittens.

        This might be overtly cynical, but Valve might be the Activision of the future.

        • Nick Lester Bell says:

          “This might be overtly cynical, but Valve might be the Activision of the future.”

          This point might be more pointed than you realized. Activision was originally founded because game developers weren’t getting any credit in games made at Atari. They created the company as a protest against Atari’s position that everyone is replacable, anyone can make a game, and that the only name required on a box is Atari.

          It’s been 35 years since then. Now we have Activision pushing out the minds behind Call of Duty, buying Guitar Hero brand but not its genius developer, running franchises into the ground by having every developer they own take a crack at them.

          I don’t see Valve following a similar path…but I imagine I wouldn’t have thought that in 1979 with Activision either.

        • It’s what happens when (eventually) those more concerned with accounting take over. The goal is not to satisfy a passion for making a great product while making money, the goal becomes to make money over nearly all other concerns. It’s happened in nearly every industry and seems to show no sign of stopping, even as it destroys both the companies themselves and those who work for them.

          • Thomas says:

            Even if they’re careful about avoiding that when selecting a new Mr Newell (which is a huge hypothetical situation btw, because the industry will have changed so much hopefully before that day comes), there’s the danger of going the other way too and doing a John Romero daiktana.

  17. Thomas says:

    It’s worth noting that the Kotick article got updated and it turned out to be a result of a 5 year compensation plan which at least answers the x8 in one year question, even if the amount is still absurd

    • Hal says:

      http://wow.joystiq.com/2013/04/29/bobby-kotick-is-one-of-the-highest-paid-ceos-in-the-u-s/

      It would seem that it’s tied to the performance of the company. Blizzard-Activision does well, Kotick gets paid more. Assuming that’s an accurate assessment, it’s rather difficult to argue with. (Well, as Shamus pointed out, you can dispute the gross value of the compensation, but I’m referring to the mechanism of it.) Whether we liked the games they put out this year or not, the only thing that matters to Kotick (and the people who determine his compensation) is the health and profit of the company.

      • Fleaman says:

        EA and Activision are sort of the two big Western game juggernauts. Activision is robust and healthy and gives its Nurglish CEO an eightfold raise. EA is the subject of numerous high-profile fiascos and disappointments and has its CEO sacked.

        How is there this huge difference? Surely all of the artistic bankruptcy, horrors of crunch-time, cannibalizing of small developers stuff we throw at EA applies equally to Activision?

        • guy says:

          Activision-Blizzard does well because it has some franchises that print money and managed to not totally screw up with them.

          To put things in perspective, I saw the press release regarding the Activision-Blizzard merger, in which Blizzard stated that they were running about a 50% profit margin. You could lose 40% of customers and still make stupidly large amounts of money with numbers like that.

          Also, Activision has World Of Warcraft, which is basically the reason why people keep spending money on MMOs despite almost all of them crashing and burning. Although I think it’s somewhat on the decline, at one point it raked in something like 150 million dollars every month.

  18. ACman says:

    Josh your microphone desperately needs surgery. I suggest hitting it with a hammer and getting a new one.

    Unless your voice repeatedly fading out is what YOU are going into surgery for.

  19. Hal says:

    Does Don’t Starve have an actual story you can learn through playing it long enough? Or is the scenery/monsters/items/etc. just there to be thematic to the gameplay?

    • rrgg says:

      There is a somewhat light story yes. If you play long enough you will eventually find a device called Maxwell’s door that sends you through an adventure of serious challenges with a big reveal at the end.

  20. wulfgar says:

    you would be fine with only 3 of you. don’t do replacements if you just missing one co-host

    • Syal says:

      I think what you meant to say is, “don’t just get one replacement for missing people”.

      It should act like a hydra; one person can’t make it, find two that can.

  21. ZoeM says:

    So, guys? Children of the Nile is SimCity, but done right (individual citizens living individual lives), and set in Egypt. It might cure the wounds left by Maxis’ mistakes.

    • guy says:

      I always had a “not enough educated people” death-spiral in that game. You need one or ideally two scribes to actually get an income, you need a priest to educate more people, and then you need more educated people to actually provide health/religious services, and then even more to run the military and build pointlessly huge monuments to your own ego. This being ancient Egypt and all, that last one is actually mandatory.

      And most scenarios start by giving you one or two of them.

  22. Spammy says:

    Gah… the eternal dilemma. Do I listen to the podcast now while it is shiny or new, or wait several days until the end of the week when I have the time to do my walks and need something to listen to? Instant gratification and knowledge of what happening now or a short delay for a more appropriate learning time?

  23. Magdain says:

    Dissing Banjo Kazooie? You’re better than that, Diecast. >:|

    • The Rocketeer says:

      I agree there’s something inherently immoral about it, like calling an amputee slow.

    • Cybron says:

      Yeah, I’m confused. Maybe it’s just the people I know but I’ve always heard Banjo Kazooie as being considered one of the high points of platforming and certainly the best collectathon. I certainly enjoyed it.

      If it’s just excessive collectathons you’re looking for, DK64 is a much better example. I love those type of games and DK64 is just too much for me.

      • Deadyawn says:

        Yeah, as far as I can remember, apart from items you actually used as resources like eggs and feathers, the only things you had to collect in banjo-kazooie were notes and jigsaw pieces. I mean, sure there were a lot of them (100 jigsaw pieces and 900 notes) but it’s not like there was a massive spectrum of different things.

        It’s also worth noting that in order to beat the game you very nearly have to get 100 percent completion anyway (90 something jigsaw pieces and 800 and something notes) which is unlike most other collectathons.

        Can you tell that I really like banjo-kazooie? because I do.

  24. Steve C says:

    Salaries at this level have nothing to do with economics – Keynesian or Austrian, it’s all about organizational behavior. For insight on the logic watch Dilbert. (I say watch rather than read because the cartoon is better for this.)

    Or to put it another way, managers at this corporate level aren’t about maximizing the corporation’s income, it’s about maximizing the manager’s income. This isn’t a political statement but a statement about rational players in an economic market. These big companies aren’t a unit working in an economy. They are an economy in and of themselves with each unit being an employee vying for economic benefit within that economy.

    • Sean Riley says:

      I was going to say something like this, so thanks for beating me to it. :)

      I’m a pretty firm Keynesian. I believe free markets do not work to benefit everyone, and many artificial scenarios created by regulation are superior to the natural state of the market. I’d be exactly the kind of person to advocate legislation.

      But in this case? I don’t see a need. If the Board of Directors are stupid enough to believe those kinds of money are justified, their loss. If the shareholders believe this is stupid, they’re in a position to sell. Nobody is locked in, no laws are required.

      But if you have shares in Activision, I’d say sell. :)

      • Paul Spooner says:

        I think the point was not that “executive salaries” = “Keynesian vs Austrian” but that, instead, discussing “Validity of pay structures” leads to discussing “validity of current laws” which in turn leads to “validity of various economic theories” among which Keynesian and Austrian are (near) polar viewpoints. But the point is well taken, we can talk about this without getting into high-level economics.

        I think the failure here isn’t that Kotick wants more money (I mean, who wouldn’t right?) but that there appear to be no checks in place to prevent him from bleeding out Activision.

        Speaking of bleeding out, you don’t even need to own Activision stock! You can go short all the way down!
        The problem is it’s impossible to know exactly when a doomed company will go belly-up. But, if you have the patience and tenacity, it’s a valid “investment” strategy.

        • Steve C says:

          My point was that this is not about economics at all. Economic theories (any/all of them) do not explain this common situation. Organizational behavior theory does.

  25. WILL says:

    I know this sounds harsh, but Jarenth brings down almost every discussion he is in. He brings up childish points, is thoroughly unfunny and just generally blubbers through your conversations. Even worse when he interrupts and interesting point.

    The bit about Kotick was cringe inducing, it really shows how little he can contribute.

    • rrgg says:

      They are all a bit childish. And I have trouble paying attention during the non-childish parts anyways so. . .

    • Jarenth says:

      Sorry to hear you feel that way. For what it’s worth, I’m not entirely sure myself why these guys keep insisting on inviting me to their party.

      I assume it’s my sparkling personality.

    • Shamus says:

      I’m a fan of Jarenth and always eager for him to be on the show. In his defense, it was something like five in the morning when we started recording this, so we aren’t hearing him at his best in this one. If you had me stay up all night and then attempt a show I’d sound much worse.

      In an ideal world, we’d be able to record at a time that didn’t require him to give up a night of sleep.

      A further disclaimer: If the audio is off in this episode, it’s because I edited it. (Aside from Josh’s strange fading cutoffs. Those were present in the recording.) I am not an audiophile and am immune to low-level white noise, low bitrate sound, and all the other stuff that drives audiophiles nuts. I mean, I always thought cassette tapes sounded fine.

      The show might be in upheaval next week as well. We’ll see how Josh feels, post-surgery. It can take a while to learn to use those robotic arms without discharging the rocket launcher every time you stretch.

    • I disagree. I think Jarenth brings a lot to the table, not least of which is his Goblin King outfit and gravitas-filled exotic accent.

      As for his Kotick comments, was it that you disagreed with his statements? Because he was just as insightful (or not) as the other characters in this audio drama.

    • Humanoid says:

      I didn’t notice anything particularly out of place with anyone’s commentary. Indeed I wish that Rutskarn would interject more like Jarenth does, as he tends to vanish at times (perhaps Raisin Bran-induced).

      Plus he was the only one to echo my constant internal screaming at Josh to use grenades during the XCOM stream.

  26. Smejki says:

    I am surprised you haven’t heard of Miasmata, Shamus. It was among the first games to be greelit on Steam (second wave to be precise). The first waves got quite good media coverage…

    And I might sound repetitive but when Josh was describing orientation and map stuff of Miasmata it again reminded me of DayZ where you also have just a map (when you find it) and compass (when you find it), both are quite common. It is fun to orient with just watch+sun or stars in the night (game uses real-world star map). GPS showing your position and orientation is very very rare.

  27. Astor says:

    My “fear” with “Thi4f” (“Thaifloorff”) is that they’ll release a completely broken game and charge you the standard 50-60 bucks. Like has happened with the likes of SimCity and Colonial Marines. I consider those to be pretty much verging on a scam.

    I can see the “Thi4f” Suits trying to get as many preorders and day-one sales and embargoing reviews so they can still get the early sales and such that – for some completely weird reason – is all that matters nowadays (ie. either you sell 5 million copies by day of release or you consider it a failure and move on to your next CODified megabudget game). Especially with Colonials Marines, you have all these developers talking sunshine for promotional material and then we find out they KNEW they were lying and it was all faked and that there never was a proper game to begin with ANYTIME during development, but hey! Publisher(TM) needs to get some of his completely misallocated bucks back somehow.

    (For the record, I wouldn’t consider Bioshock: Inifite or Mass Effect 3 “scammy”, they failed to live up to the promises made during marketing, but you just have to take marketing with a grain of salt and there’s still a polished and full game worth its price there.)

    As for Real Thief Stealth genre being dead, the problem I see is failure: games shy away from letting you fail. Systems get simplified, in order for you to not be able to fail. In System Shock you had this inventory and all these resources and you could screw yourself if you used ‘em VERY unwisely, by Bioshock:Infinite there’s nothing to screw up, no resources to manage, hacking is instantaneous, everything is linear and solved by shooting enough bullets. In Thief, like Chris says, getting spotted and engaged in combat most of the time means failure, nowadays it’s not failure it’s an opportunity to hackaway in bliss at the AI bots.

    I wish Publishers(TM) would at least try and produce somewhat “risky” content, you are afraid it wont make enough money?? Then don’t throw 150 million dollars for development + marketing and then force your devs to waste a year producing a demo to show off at some crappy expo and then tell them release day is in 10 months! XCOM is a wonderful example, it’s “risky” by today’s standards, and yes it’s simplified, but it’s still a real XCOM game and it does allow you to fail.

    • Thomas says:

      Even looking outside the PCs, both the Metal Gear franchise and Splinter Cell have moved more and more away from being discovered=death. It’s a pretty strong industry trend

      • Klay F. says:

        The Metal Gear Solid series at least has NEVER been about discovery=death. I don’t know about the earlier 2 MSX games, because they were generally quite poorly designed throughout, but there is a reason the MGS series has been traditionally subtitled: Tactical Espionage Action.

        • Thomas says:

          It was fairly difficult to fight your way out of anything in the originals. It was one of the design restrictions that led HK to invent stealth that the hardware couldn’t handle proper lasting battles.

          Although I haven’t actually ever played MGS1 (*blush) I’d heard that the combat controls were bad enough to make fighting guards pretty hard to do.

          • BeardedDork says:

            I played it when it came out, and yeah, pretty much. It didn’t help that I never got that you could sneak around the bad guys (I was about 12)

        • Nimas says:

          Discovery didn’t mean death in Thief either. At least not always. Usually you had to book it though. Honestly I wish if they’re going to merge any gameplay aspect with their hideous *must be able to do stunts* Garrett, it’d be Mirror’s Edge.

          I’m actually really disappointed that more games haven’t taken some of its great free running gameplay and mixed it in with something else. Although I suppose that would make designing the levels more difficult, I still think it’d be a much better game to play then a Dishonoured style “oh noes, I’ve been spotted. Welp, guess it’s murder time now”.

          (Also, freerunning style would be a way to get you out of situations, it would definately not be viable for entry into places)

        • StashAugustine says:

          Hell, the most common complaint I hear about MGS gameplay is that there’s no reason aside from the controls and a score to not just shoot everyone on the level.

          • Klay F. says:

            If your only goal is to burn through the game as quickly as possible, then no, there is no reason to not just run around and shoot everything, but then you are depriving yourself of the most interesting parts for no reason and have no one to blame but yourself. But the appeal of MGS (at least to me, and I admit I may very well be in the minority on this) is the frankly ridiculous number of options you have. Toying with guards has never lost its charm for me, no matter which title I play, whether its leading some hapless schmuck in circles with my footprints in the first MGS, or constructing the most ridiculous Rube Goldberg contraption I can just to take out a single guard in the later titles. The potential for this has only gotten better with each new game.

    • Fleaman says:

      As we move more towards more cinematic styles of game (which look better in trailers), the inevitably narrative-breaking nature of player failure has become harder and harder to just let happen. A big part of why super-hard games of the 8- and 16-bit eras could get away with such wanton disregard for player life was because there was basically no narrative to ruin.

      This is why I’m actually pretty cool with cutscenes and other methods of segregating gameplay and story. In Portal 2, there’s a point where you have to shoot a portal while using your other portal to suspend you over a pit, and this occurs during an extended period of hightened dramatic tension. Players kept forgetting which portal they were already using, causing them to fall and die, so the devs just quietly swapped the portals whenever you fired the wrong one. Player agency is reduced, but at a moment where it’s more important for the player to remain immersed in the flow of the narrative than for the player to be tested by gameplay.

      • Astor says:

        Oh, man, I can’t help but disagree with you so much! Story and gameplay segregation is something that annoys me to no end. Moving away from “Nintendo hard” games of the 8&16-bit era is no biggie for me because I think they were needlessly hard (and they mostly consisted of contrived and excuse plots anyway). But I’m not even talking about difficulty here, I’m talking about failure states. The modern conception is that failure is annoying and frustrating, which I think shouldn’t be so. Oh you saved this NPC? Don’t worry he was going to die anyway and you still get the loot! Oh you want to sell this quest-essential item? Don’t worry, you can’t. Oh, you alienated an entire town? Don’t worry in three days they’ll forget about your offense. Oh, you got spotted and they sounded the alarm? Don’t worry, nothing will happen, no increased security around the McGuffin, your target won’t move to a saferoom, no nuthin’.

        I find segregating story and gameplay to be too jarring, it just shatters suspension-of-disbelief… which is essential if you want to tell a story!!. So I can’t understand how you can prefer it! I mean, I do understand certain failure states can take you out from the story, but I’m preaching for a balance: neither incorporating failure states that are too jarring, nor the complete eradication of player agency and failure states! We keep throwing ever increasing millions of dollars and hundreds of people and yet we keep moving away from the organic way a game like DeusEx dealt with player agency! Besides I don’t buy that they are doing it in order to have smooth storytelling, they do it to appeal to the lower common denominator and sell the game to as many people as possible (which would be fine if you are producing a game that lends itself naturally to that, but butchering a specific genre is a disservice to the game and the fans. Why are you even funding a game in the genre if you don’t think it’s viable?? I mean, it’d be ridiculous if you were to slap “THIEF” to a game that plays like Borderlands; you are better off starting a new franchise, no matter how “difficult” you perceive that is).

        Your Portal 2 example doesn’t stand out for me because a) there’s a clear and specific reasoning behind it and b) it’s seamless. In fact, Portal is a franchise that barely segregates story and gameplay, it’s all smooth and slick, you don’t notice the man behind the curtain (and thus get jettisoned out of the experience) too easily once you are drawn into the game. In contrast, a recent example whose gameplay stood dissociated from story in a devastatingly jarring way was Bioshock: Infinite (I rant about it like an idiot in the link on my name if you care), and again I can’t help thinking that they simplified the game not in service of the “cinematic” story, but of sales.

        (Also, could you tell me which moment is it in Portal 2? Use the spoiler tags if necessary, I’m curious!)

        • Fleaman says:

          (Also, could you tell me which moment is it in Portal 2? Use the spoiler tags if necessary, I’m curious!)

          I don’t remember exactly where it is… It’s definitely in one of the last two chapters, and involves firing a portal while floating inside an Excursion Funnel that you’ve redirected. There’s a commentary node nearby explaining the behind-the-scenes portal switch.

          In fact, there’s another notable instance of portal switching that’s possibly a better example of what I was saying: The portal you shoot at the moon can be either color, regardless of the color of the portal you already planted under Wheatley.

          What I was talking about was really a bit of a tangent and I don’t really remember why I brought it up.

  28. Kavonde says:

    So, is the mailbag officially defunct, or did you guys just not only forget it again, but forget that it even existed?

    • Shamus says:

      We keep running out of time. Josh and I are in a little tug-of-war over the show length. (I don’t like going over an hour.) So, I’m usually pushing to wrap up just as we get to the one hour mark.

      I think next week we might try to fix this by doing the mailbag right after “what’s everyone playing”?

      Also, right now the diecast only goes to one person, which is super-annoying and I can’t find a good tool to fix it. We need a good way for all of us to see the mail, read the mail, and flag some for discussion. The mail would be getting better attention if there was an easier way for all of us to see it.

      • Klay F. says:

        Would a Google Hangout type thingie fix this maybe? Or maybe just a dedicated question thread on the forums?

      • Kavonde says:

        I gotcha. I didn’t mean to sound snarky, if I did; not like I’ve even sent anything in lately.

        That’s weird about the emails, though. You discussed it in the show awhile back, too. The only address you’ve given is the diecast@shamusyoung.com one; don’t they all end up in there?

      • postinternetsyndrome says:

        Maybe just set a filter that forwards the diecast mail to all of you? Don’t know what platform you use but gmail can do that easily.

      • Astor says:

        You can try using gmail. You would have to set-up a diecast-gmail-account and then “delegate” access to it to all and each of you guys’ personal accounts (which have to also be gmail accounts).

        If *all* that were to happen, each time you login to your personal gmail account you can access the diecast account in a new tab. Ideally, each of you could “star” or label interesting emails in the diecast-gmail-account and even leave comments to other “delegates” by saving drafts in each email you consider interesting or responding to the diecast-gmail-account.

        I’m fuzzy if it would actually all work so smoothly as I say with so many “delegates”, but you can check this video explaining how it goes: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=1I5Xq69E0M8.

      • Artur CalDazar says:

        Why are you trying to keep it around the one hour mark anyway?

      • Steve C says:

        A google group or a google doc would solve the 1 person email problem. You wouldn’t even need to change the frontend email address that the public sees. Simply have that address forward to your private google group which you all would then subscribe to. Astor’s suggestion of delegates would work but I don’t believe it’s the right tool for the job.

  29. Paul Spooner says:

    Josh sounds bored by life. Disillusioned and lethargic.
    Hey Josh, if you give us your address, we can ensure that is never again a problem.
    Also, how did the surgery go?

  30. Blov says:

    In an industry which frequently relies on appalling workplace practices and unpaid overtime to get games made, has lousy job security and consequently a lot of problems keeping teams, finishing games properly and fostering talent, it is obscene that Bobby Kotick is receiving that sort of pay.

    I’m not really sure how you can discuss that sort of disparity in detail without going headlong into politics or incoherent rage (I’m a Marxist so I don’t really fall within the Keynesian/Austrian dichotomy, though I prefer the former by a massive distance for all sorts of reasons) so I’ll leave it at that.

    I do think that the system which massively rewards young Kotick while taking advantage of the people actually making the game is basically guaranteeing that a good, unusual triple A game will always be the exception rather than the rule, and that looking back we will see the mangled corpses of cancelled projects, mismanaged, self-censored, compromised, unexperimental and mangled games. Because that’s what Hollywood did.

  31. Artur CalDazar says:

    I like how chris seems to just throw games at people every week.

    On the topic of stealth, it is a genre that is falling on hard times, but it doesn’t seem to be because of any failing sales, people just seem to not be making stealth anymore. Even Splinter Cell where the combat was often a fallback (If a slightly less interesting and vastly more risky fallback) the key was stealth, even Conviction tried to stick to that by having you use stealth as a way of murdering everything like you’re the predator, but its upcoming title is having some stealth elements thrown in as a second thought, because apparently the way to stand out and be noticed in todays market is to look like a mindless shooter set in the middle east where you get to call in airstrikes.

    But the series wasn’t selling poorly when they shifted away from stealth (I might be wrong on that), everybody loved Chaos Theory. Yet they are doing as much as they can to step away from what made people like the series.

  32. You pay the guards more because it’s personally dangerous if they turn on you and you want to ensure their loyalty.

    Which is just so wrong and twisted.
    Any employee should be loyal to their position/job/workplace, if they are not they get fired or even sued or brought up on criminal chargers.

    And unlike a guard job which can get shitty (mind you the US Secret Services guys who have sworn to take a bullet for the president does not make that much, if anything those guys should get a AAA salary),
    a CEO does not exactly ovr-extert themselves.

    All those travels and expenses? Covered by the company account.
    Food/Lunch/Drinks? Covered by the company account.
    Transport? Covered by the company account.
    The difficult to read fine print in documents? Handled by the company legal department.

    A salary should be defined by: A Monetary base (adjusted for inflation) * The hours worked * Physical exertion/danger (or the technical difficulty of the job).
    The last quantifier is a bit hard to quantify sure, but it can be done.

    Look at the US president, he makes way less than any CEO, and The President runs arguably one of the most powerful nations in the world;
    shouldn’t he by the same capitalistic reasoning be making billions in salary per year?

    Capitalism is what it is, the issue is the corruption of capitalism, where those to produce or own no longer get the value for their produce/work or property that they should get.

    Once in a while capitalism due to the nature of human greed need to be reset. But there hasn’t been a truly major empire collapse since, what roman times now? WW2 did not cause a proper reset of capitalism.

    If the Dollar collapsed then that might do the trick, as all the wealthy would then need to renegotiate with those who work/produce goods/maintain land/provide services.

    Also inflation causes poor people to get poorer and poorer, and rich people to amass more and more money since it’s now worth less. It’s a cycle that destroys itself.

    But a CEO that gets AAA budget worth of salary per year while getting pretty much everyday expenses handled for free.
    Are CEOs so prone to “theft” that they must be bribed to not harm the company they are to steer?

    If this was a ship at sea the crew would have mutinied and thrown the captain overboard if he was untrustworthy to be the captain. (and this has happen many times in the past).

    Another thing is when CEOs are let go, they are given these huge severances packages. And they are often not held that responsible for blunders they make. How about giving back that severance package you got? Nope! And not long after you hear them getting a nice new CEO job at some other company.

    We all know that a worker if worth much more than they are paid, we all know a CEO is worth much less than what they are paid. But guess who keeps influencing the politicians that regulate? Yup! Big money.

    Now I can’t blame Kotick for grabbing any money thrown at him, I sure would grab it as well without blinking. But this issue of the bottom to the top money disparity is only going to get worse.

    There are forces in the industry (and here I mean all industries) that try to ensure there is less government oversight. So if you thought worker pay was bad now, imagine what it’ll be with less oversight, with less checks and balances.

    A few bad apples poisons the well (is that even the correct wording?) the rest just takes advantage of a situation that is there. (it is human nature after all)
    The issue though is that the bad apples ensures the well stays bad or get worse.
    And eventually it all will collapse.

    I’d hate to see a classes war. And when I say war here I mean an actual war, and with the amount of guns the everyday worker owns in the US I’d hate to be a rich guy who just pissed off millions of workers. Even the US military would be outnumbered. (There is always self-genocide but I think the other nations in the world would react towards the US in that case.)

    Do note this is a worst case scenario, but it is none the less plausible, and it is creeping in that direction unless folks at the top (and this means the CEOs etc.) actually do a few things to even out the disparity between pays.

    Here is an interesting mindgame to brings things back from politics (sorry Shamus, but you opened the barn door with the Kotick pay thing there :)

    imagine this:

    With thee recent EA layoffs, what if the EA CEO instead had halved his salary (or down to 25% even). Then those layoffs would probably not be needed.

    One would assume that a CEO would do their outmost to protect the job of employees that do good work, right?

    Oh well. If the system ain’t broken then don’t fix it, right?
    Oh hang on a minute…

    • Shamus says:

      I am astonished. I did NOT leave the barn door open, Roger Hågensen. I specifically asked that we steer clear of politics and stick to the games industry, and you posted (hang on let me copy & paste) 850 words of exactly that thing I said not to do, and in exactly the way I said not to do it. You pressed just about every hot button on your mad dash through the topic, as if you were deliberately trying to engineer a mess for me to clean up.

      My blog is not your soapbox. Sell your politics someplace else.

      • I would like to avoid this as much as possible. Let’s stick to salaries as they relate to the games industry, and see if we can’t steer clear of politics. We all know that that argument turns out.

        Doh! your right, not sure how I managed to gloss over that.
        My apologies. For some reason my train of thought (and thus the words I typed) followed the money (and how it all was tied together).

        And I’m not selling anything, my apologies again if I gave you the impression of that as well, and I’m a bit confused too as I’m not currently selling any products (other than maybe my music but I did not mention that anywhere here).

        But anyway, unless you or anyone else has any reason why not to, then I’m perfectly fine with nuking these related comments.

        Also, as to the soapbox thing, I do get passionate about things. And those who comment here seem intelligent and well behaved (thanks to you I assume). Now I can not promise I will not be verbose about subjects in the future, but I’ll try my best to self moderate as per your wishes (no politics which I overstepped on, and no religion which I’ve adhered to, I’ll now add no money to the taboo subjects here).
        but if you prefer I can just not comment any more. I’ll just stick to just reading your blog instead. No hard feelings.

        • Shamus says:

          I know how it is. You read it, and it hit something that you’re passionate about, and then you’ve got a whole bunch of words to say. Happens to me every time a yahoo talks about needing stronger DRM. I was mad about it last night, but it looks like this isn’t going to turn into an argument so I think we’ll just let it stand and move on. No hard feelings.

  33. This is kind of off topic. (well it’s game related though)
    Some of you may or may not be aware of this. And I’m hopefully correect in assuming ther are a lot of Roleplaying and RPG / CRPG fans reading this (hopefully).

    Whitewolfs “Vampire: The Masquerade” RPG is 20 years now,.

    If anybody has not played: “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines”
    yet then do so now, while it still is “passable”, in a few years you may not be able to overlook the old graphics.

    I advise using the “True Patch” rather than the “Unofficial Patch”,
    while the Unofficial patch was the first and is the best known, it still does alter gameplay a little.
    While the “True Patch” only fixes bugs.
    There is also a versus fight between supporters of both community patches, I’ve used the Unofficial patch in the past as that was all I found, but now I’m using the True Patch instead.

    Maybe once I’ve played through the game clean, and feel like playing through again I might try the Unofficial patchs with all the changes and stuff to give some extra re-playability. *shrug*

    Right now I just want to play the original without any bugs. :)

    http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2851196

    And here’s a few tips from me. If the sound is echoy/weird, then disable (in the game options) the environmental effects setting.
    And if you get a black screen but sound when starting the game then go into the game folder and rename the “movies” folder you find in there somewhere to “movies_disabled”, this will get rid of the intro movies.

    Bloodlines is also the very first Source engine game (it was made using a beta of the Source engine) but was released after Half Life 2.

  34. Tsi says:

    When they said Stephen Russell was too old for mocap, they were probably refering to the sex scenes.

    About infirtration/sneaky games, there is Warframe, a game that lets you play a cyborg armed with guns, swords and “augmentations” that can give special abilities.
    While this game is still in beta test. Players never try to use a sneaky aproach in missions as everyone rushes to the end. This is sometimes infuriating as it forces you to play alone so that nobody sets up the alarms.
    I do have some hopes that the developpers will hear what we say in their forums. There is a topic dedicated to this.

  35. Heaven Smile says:

    Shamus, don’t you feel bad that someone already did what you wanted to do? Its probable that everytime you end up making progress on your OWN game, another game comes up and does the exact same thing but much better, meaning that you will be stuck in a constant strugle to get the game to be up to date to the competition but never quite reaching them. You could release the game with the features that others have done, sure, but at this point you will be labeled as just a knock off that tries to cash in on the success of others, even when you clearly had this idea from a long time but couldn’t finish because of reasons.

  36. Ebalosus says:

    Honestly, I’m glad you brought up the Kotick pay thing…but not to discuss the differences between an Austrian-school viewpoint and a Keynesian viewpoint, rather to discuss the following question:

    Why the hell are videogames getting more expensive to make?!

    Seriously, why isn’t the games industry following the electronics industry in terms of costs-of-production? It can’t all just be spent on tech and artists, because like programmers, artists are a dime-a-dozen, thus labour costs should be decreasing with this expanded pool of available labour.

    No matter whether you are an Austrian-school person (like me), or a Keynesian, you must realise that within normal economic conditions, as an industry evolves and matures, costs should be going down, due to optimisation of resources and economies of scale.

    • Ebalosus says:

      This is why I’m wondering why game development costs are rising, courtesy of MrBtongue

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Here is one explanation (sort of)
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6TmTv6deTI

        And here’s a longer one (two-part article with lots of links … timesink!)
        http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/8/3
        http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_9/55

        Also, Shamus has talked about it a few times (but I don’t find it right now): For the same reason that movies are becoming more expensive to make: In order to be a “successful” company you must score bigger hits every year. Especially in video gaming, the target group becomes ever larger, so higher investemnts seem to make sense. Therefore (and not just therefore, but you’ll have to follow those links for that), those huge game corporations are not spending time on B-Games but betting everything on the next blockbuster (but in a risk-averse way — go figure). And the next blockbuster, because of requiring ever better graphics (because you can’t afford to look last-year) needs ever more assets, and voiceovers, and MoCap, and celebrity cameos and whatnot. … and _then_ it needs a marketing budget to match the engineering/artisting one because most of the purchases happen in the first two weeks, and then you’re either a hit or off the shelf.

        … luckily, tough, there are still indie games, and it looks as if those are more and more stealing old EA’s show. I’m content with that.

  37. EwgB says:

    I feel like I have to add some clarification to Kotick’s role in Moneyball. It was an uncredited cameo as the team’s former owner Stephen Schott (see Wikipedia) and apparently it was done for charity (source). Doesn’t make Kotick a good CEO, but maybe shows that he isn’t Satan.

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