Getting in the Game

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 4, 2007

Filed under: Personal 56 comments

Days ago a reader left this comment on my sarcastic post making fun of the current generation of computer RPG’s:

Why all the sarcasm? I mean, you've got the constant hateful rants against 2K, your story about how there's nothing exciting for you at the PC section of the game store, and now this?

You go around with the whole “oh look, the whole game industry is just putting tired old retreads on the efforts of great games before them, there is no creativity or originality in the world anymore le sigh” then expect the world to marvel at Chainmail Bikini?

Use your powers for awesome. You have a large audience that you *earned* with witty, quality work in DMoTR. If you think games today are crappy, work towards making a better one. Be different; you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone's personal site ranting about the sorry state of [hobby], why not rise above that?

It’s true that a lot of my videogame posts have been pretty sour lately. I’ve been writing lamentations on the fading hobby that is PC gaming. Part of this decline is inevitable. Consoles really came into their own over the last few years. Better graphics, HDTV, internet connectivity, and other improvements have eliminated most of the advantages of the PC platform. Developers prefer consoles because of the fixed hardware, standardized controls, and low piracy. This has formed a positive feedback loop: More developers making more console games has sold more consoles, making them even more attractive for developers.

The shift of videogames from the PC to consoles is sad for those of us who prefer PC gaming, but there isn’t much to be done about it. Yeah, I’m a betamax user in 1986. It’s sad to see trends go against me, but that’s not what’s making me mad.

What is making me mad are the publishers, not for abandoning the platform, but for polluting it and hastening its fall. I’m not upset that there aren’t any games I want to play, I’m annoyed that there are games I’d play, but they are saddled with DRM, riddled with bugs, and demand cutting-edge graphics hardware to deliver stone-age gameplay. We don’t really need better games. We just need them to stop sabotaging the ones they give us. Lack of innovation is a bit of a bummer, but lack of quality and contempt for the customer are the real villains.

On top of all of this, game “journalists” are AWOL on this stuff. The major gaming press doesn’t get near these issues. So, my constant hammering away on the BioShock DRM fiasco is almost an attempt to make up for their silence. Somebody has to say something. To a certain extent I have used my “powers” – such as they are – for good. I let people know what the review of BioShock in PC Gamer didn’t bother to tell them: The game is broken, annoying, and 2KGames can’t decide if it wants to react with scorn or apathy towards frustrated customers. I’m helping people make a slightly more informed buying decision, which is worth something.

As for me making a game…

Maybe.

I’ve given this sort of thing a lot of thought. The major hurdle is that I’m not a leader or manager. I’m not the right guy to gather up a squad of creative types and Make Something Happen. I’m an engineer, not a foreman. I’m wise enough to know this. We’ve all seen projects where somebody with big dreams and miniscule management skills has tried to change the world, and it’s usually a train wreck. Daikatana is a notorious example. John Romero is not an idiot. He’s most likely not a bad programmer. He is a rotten manager, and when he took up the mantle of leader, he bit off orders of magnitude more than he could chew. The result is a game that lost staggering amounts of money and served as a universal punchline in the industry for years.

I’m also not very well-off, and even a “no budget” indie game needs a little cash, so I’m really not the guy for this particular quest. (I’m not complaining. I’ve made deliberate decisions that led me to this spot in life and I’m not crying about not making “enough” money. I’m just saying I don’t have the reserves to start a company. Not even a small unofficial one. Nominal fame is nice, but it doesn’t keep the electricity on.)

Sure, I have ideas for games, but the sad truth is that game ideas are so common as to be nearly bereft of value. Everyone has an idea for a game. Even when you bring a whole bunch of programmers and artists together to make a game, each of them is most likely nurturing an idea for some other game in the back of their mind while they toil away at yours.

So game concepts are nothing new and – as painful as it is to realize – nothing special. It’s easy to come up with a game. It’s harder to come up with fun, balanced gameplay mechanics. It’s harder still to find a group of talented people who can get behind your vision. And it’s damn near impossible to get funding for the thing. So, getting an “idea” is the easiest step in a long process fraught with peril. Having an idea for a game is Frodo thinking about leaving The Shire. Making a game is getting your butt up the side of Mt. Doom and destroying the One Ring in time for the planned release date.

I’ll admit now that I’ve written design docs for games. I’ve sketched out stories, gameplay mechanics, labor requirements, character designs, and technology requirements. They’re all sitting in text files, unused, because there’s nothing to be done with them. I can’t put them to use, and anyone worth their salt as a developer is most likely busy with a current project and thinking about the next. Only the thinnest shreds of self-respect keep me from just unloading them here on the site.

I’m still looking for opportunities. Maybe someday I’ll find a way into the industry that doesn’t require living in Southern California or working for a huge, publisher-driven company. Maybe I’ll come up with something compelling that I can tackle on my own. I don’t know. My love for games and my fondness for tinkering with technology and gameplay mechanics drive me to want to get involved. At the same time, I’d rather sit on the sidelines than get involved in some half-assed way.

 


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56 thoughts on “Getting in the Game

  1. Robert says:

    Open-source it. Come up with the philosophy document for the game, the ideas, the raw material, and then create the Shamus’ Game Wiki and let the team self-organize.

  2. GoofyFoot says:

    I can understand completely your reluctance to jump into the arena of game development. From all accounts I’ve heard, it is a pretty dog-eat-dog environment, even if you do have the financial backing. Still, I would absolutely love to hear some of your ideas for games, as your stated tastes are very similar to mine.

  3. Henebry says:

    “Use your powers for awesome”: anyone else catch the reference?

    Strong Bad in response to email question #1, regarding his ability to type with boxing glove hands: “… and if you are a robot, do you use your powers for good, or for awesome?”

  4. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Shamus,why dont you look at other teams that are making free games(like http://wesnoth.org/ )and join with them?

  5. Rustybadger says:

    Have you thought about a co-op game design company? I can tell you without reservation there’d be a TONNE (or TON, for you Americans) of people with skills, time, and money (not necessarily in that order) who’d be interested in a project like that. Something like an “almost open source” game project- the problem with OSS is that it often doesn’t pay the bills for the participants, thus we see the long, drawn-out projects that seldom see the light of day, or never make it past Alpha release.

    Funding…yeah, that’s always the Big Problem. There are, however, plenty of people for whom that is a Minor Issue, and tapping those folks with fund-raising skillz is key to a project like this. Not impossible, but perhaps tedious. That’s where a Co-op can be helpful. I’m sure with the number of readers on this site, there’s going to be a few people who’d fit that hole.

    It would be an interesting project to work on, for sure. I also think it could be a ground-breaking concept, and as long as project management is done properly, could herald the dawn of a new age in game design. There’s a tag line for ya too!

  6. smoovegeek says:

    You know what CRPG game I miss? Wizard’s Crown. Okay, maybe it’s before all y’all’s time, but despite its flaws, it was as close to perfection as I’ve seen to date.

    Just complex enough tactical turn-based combat, tons of skills and stats to customize on party members, a huge variety of really cool (and useful) loot, old school D&D style storyline…

    Ah yes, I skipped many a class to play that game. In fact, every few years I dust off the old Atari 1200XL and play it all over again…

    Um, oh, right. Game wiki. Good idea.

  7. Jacob says:

    Ya’ll are missing the point. Everything suggested so far takes *time* and *organization*. It takes, in Shamus’ words, a Foreman. All these suggestions do *zero* good without you first find yourself a foreman with time and desire to drive the thing. And here’s the thing: if you have a foreman with time and desire, all the rest of your suggestions are moot because the thing is then off the ground.

    And yeah, I read the OSS response. Believe me, those things need a forman as much (or more) as any other project. OSS projects without a willing and engaged foreman litter the cyber-turf, their broken carcuses serving as fair warning to anyone paying attention. Linus Torvalds isn’t remarkable as a developer–he’s remarkable as a foreman. Or at least, the success of linux is due to skills in the latter rather than skills in the former.

  8. Rustybadger says:

    @Jacob, you are dead right. I did neglect to mention that in my comment, didn’t I? I think that you can apply that to every successful business- they are run by excellent leaders who may or may not actually possess the engineering and technical skills related to said business. If something like this is to get off the ground, is HAS to be lead by someone with the requisite LEADERSHIP skills. Someone who can say to the team every morning, “Ok, people, what are we doing today? Have you got those textures done yet? What about that framerate issue? What do you mean you’ve been too busy playing Xbox 360?”

  9. roxysteve says:

    I’m with you Shamus on the deplorable self-fulfilling prophesy of doom the PC gaming market as become.

    I enjoy console gaming but also feel that the richness of standard computer controls offers a better (sometimes much better) experience than the ever-increasing number of joysticks and buttons on a single handheld console controller ever can.

    Wanna fly a jet or drive a car? You need a joystick and some pedals or a steering wheel and some pedals.

    Wanna be a one-man tactical assault weapon system in the far future? The buttons become a bit limiting for those rare but vital ops like exchanging magazinesand fine-tuning the in-helmet HUD.

    Wanna control a giant Mech and give a damn good drubbing to that guy who was playing Pippin in DMotR? Now you are firmly in “not enough buttons on the console controller” country, at least, if you want the sort of richness the old Mech Warrior offered.

    Don’t get me started about the Command and Conquer style RTS games. They require a sophisticated set of shortcut controls in addition to a mouse for fast and deadly play.

    One can argue that a game that requires complex controls perhaps needs a control-interface redesign, but in my extremely limited experience I’ve found that to be truer of the console games than those built for a PC.

    But we could all live without the bleeding-edge psychology that runs deep in today’s PC game designers.

    Next big question: When the platform-upgrade nonsense eventually forces the PC game off the shelves, what will happen to all those people who design and sell PC video cards? Will the console manufacturers kick into a rapid-fire platform replacement model? There ain’t much money in making them otherwise.

    Steve.

  10. Mike says:

    I see nothing wrong with intelligent criticism of something. Shamus’ off-the-cuff rants are still better than 95% of what’s out there in the socialbookmarkosphere. There’s a place in this world for creators and those who consume those creations. Not everyone has the time, luxury or talent to write a new game.

  11. Phlux says:

    Shamus,

    I think you’re selling yourself a bit short. You definitely have leadership skills. Hiring great people and corralling them to your will is a skill gained with experience. Management ability isn’t something your born with.

    What YOU have is definitely the aptitude for management, though. You have a way that attracts people into your web. That’s 90% of the hard part right there. All that’s left is separating the wheat from the chaff, if you’ll excuse the mixing of spider and farming metaphors.

    I think the above commenters are right. You need to go open-source. Start by making a mod. The quake 3 engine is open source now, I think, as is Freespace II’s flight engine. I’m sure there are others, but you seem like you would definitely need full sourcecode engine access so that you aren’t limited by what kind of gameplay mechanics can be introduced. Thus I would recommend not doing a mod for a more current game, as they aren’t nearly as “moddable”.

    If I had any skills to offer, I would definitely volunteer, but I escapped from my undergrad years with my CompSci degree and forever swore off a professional programming career. Almost done with my MBA now, so maybe in a few years I’ll finally be able to put together my own team of crack programmers and artists to do my bidding…err I mean make a game.

  12. Edhering says:

    Heck, I bought Diablo II the day it came out solely because I’d loved Diablo so much. And while D2 added a lot of neat features, it did not require all that much better a computer than the original game did.

    Blizzard “copy protected” both Diablo and D2 the best way possible: they made awesome games. When I got the original Diablo, I got a burned copy from a friend…and after playing it for 15 hours at my first sitting, went out and bought a copy of it.

    I still play D2 to this day (and was annoyed that I couldn’t install it under Vista…but that’s fixed now). I heartily wish that Blizzard would make another game like it; unfortunately for me, WoW makes them too much money these days. (No, I don’t like online RPGs.)

    Of course, one reason I still play D2 is because there isn’t anything better out there. I’ve run through Neverwinter Nights a couple of times now (and the expansions) but WON’T buy NwN2 due to DRM and plot suckitude; anyway NwN–while fun–isn’t as much fun the third time through as D2 is on the thirtieth, for some reason.

    Go figure.

  13. Rob says:

    I’m in. Sign me up cheif.

  14. Krellen says:

    A good way to start, I think, would be by outlining what aspects of game development you are willing and/or able to do, thus allowing those with other talents to step in to fill up holes.

    For instance, I could never get into game design in a real company because while I have programming knowledge, I haven’t used them in ten years and have no desire to use them. I can write background, dialogue, clean up holes in plot lines and quickly come up with ways deal with unexpected player actions – all of which make me a talented Tabletop Game Maste – but which holds little interest to modern gaming companies, who want programming ability, artistic ability, rendering skill or, preferably, all three. Story-boarders and “theme guys” don’t seem to be in their budgets.

  15. Unbeliever says:

    I know a little whereof you speak.

    I majored in computer science and became a programmer, largely because of my love of gaming on my Commodore 64. (Yes, I’m THAT old.) I wanted nothing more in life than to be the next Richard Garriott.

    But I needed the paycheck, the security of a “real job”. So now I do database programming for a major university.

    A college friend of mine had the same dream, and ALOT more courage — upon graduation, he spent FIVE YEARS living in his parents’ basement, working on a game with a completely original concept. You see, he wouldn’t sell the GAME — it would run on his system, and people would pay monthly fees to play it online. There could be a large number of people playing at once, and they could interact and adventure together…

    Well, you can guess how the story ends. During those five years, he maxed out all of the credit cards anyone was willing to give him — and other, larger, better-funded companies came out with MMORPGs. My friend had missed his chance to be the inventor of the entire genre. He finally had to quit working on his game, and go get a real job — only burdened with MASSIVE amounts of debt and nothing to show for it…

    As things worked out, I wound up looking like the smart one. But if he had succeeded… he actually COULD have been the next Richard Garriott.

    For every person who takes a big risk and succeeds wildly, there are probably at least a hundred who take the same risk, and fall flat on their face, that you never hear about. If you’re already rich, you can afford the risk. If not… there’s something to be said for playing it safe…

  16. Rustybadger says:

    @Rob: You’re signed up for spelling classes- first we will review the “I before E” rule…

    I kid, I kid. Besides spelling, what’s your Mad Skillset? If Shamus can get a good idea of what people here can offer, maybe he’ll seriously think about it. I, for example, am offering my incredible talents at sarcasm, irony, and dry humour. And yes, it’s spelled with a u, at least where I live.

    And I’d like to insist that any game that comes out of this discussion be cross-platform, or at the very least, run on Mac OSX. Otherwise I’m gonna take my sarcasm and go somewhere where it’s appreciated. Yeah.

  17. DGM says:

    I have the same problems you do, but it isn’t stopping me from making my own game (www.dungeon-games.com).

    1) Leadership skills

    You don’t need these if you fly solo.

    2) Money

    There are game engines out there which range from cheap-to-free (see Game Maker). And there are decent graphics out there available for free, if you don’t mind not having cutting edge stuff. Some sources for the graphics:

    http://rltiles.sourceforge.net/ (public domain, what I’m using)

    http://www.lowpolycoop.com/ (a site for 3D graphics that’s been mentioned on The Rampant Coyote a few times)

  18. Takkelmaggot says:

    I agree with Roxysteve- there are types of games in which the PC has an edge because of the superior controls. (I recall making a similar comment a few weeks ago, in fact.) These are the areas that see the most releases; immersive shooters, RTS, sims, strategy.
    It’s sobering to think that in another 5 years we will no longer see the brouhaha of major game releases (such as Bioshock and World In Conflict generate) but, frankly, I won’t be missing them. I’ve always hated media blitzes to start with.

  19. Shawn says:

    We need to build a Chainmail Bikini text adventure, ala Zork.

  20. Shamus says:

    You are likely to be groped by a grue.

  21. Luke Maciak says:

    I, for one enjoy your rants on PC gaming plight. Sure – anyone can complain, but few do it as amusing as you do.

    And it does make a difference. You have a big audience here – you are in a perfect position to make people care, or change people’s minds on certain things.

    Saying “why won’t you get off your butt, and do something instead of complaining” is the oldest trick in the book – that’s how you diffuse an emphatic rhetoric or a call to action.

    I think your response is correct here. You don’t have resources to create awesome games, but you are in position to influence hearts and minds of current and future game developers, and executives.

    Besides, for each “sour” post I can point out another in which you praise a well designed game. So the jabs at BioShock at offset by your great reviews of Jade Empire. Btw, if it wasn’t for you I would never probably play that game.

    Don’t change anything man. Keep doing what you are doing. People come here because they enjoy reading your stuff. :)

  22. Rob says:

    @Rustybadger: Lol. I always mess up my stupid ie words. :)

    My mad skillset is … Umm.. well.. I’m actually a professional programmer. Unforutnately, my work is in building business applications. I am pretty good at lots of stuff, just not great at any of it. So I’m the jack-of-all trades guy. :)

  23. Heather says:

    I actually said this stuff out loud to Shamus, well because he is my husband and we work in the same room (How awesome is that?) but wanted to add it here to the conversation.

    May I suggest that leadership skills are not what Shamus is lacking. He needs a manager. A leader and a manager are two very different people (unless you are someone who happens to have those skills) and Shamus does not have any managerial skills–and there are certain character traits that are necessary to be a great manager which he is sorely lacking. (May I add that that is why I love him as I am not so keen on managerial types–aside of course from the sense of humor and other characteristics.) If he had someone under him as an administrator of the project he would be set–of course that someone would have to have excellent managerial skills and be willing to go without pay–and as he pointed out verbally, that ain’t me–I have nearly as little administrative skills as he has and have too little time to do all I have to do as it is. :))

  24. Shawn says:

    Managerial Skills:

    Don’t look at me!

  25. Mari says:

    Sadly, I miss the old Zork games more than any other game (except maybe Dungeon Master 2 but that’s more for the hawt chicks in scraps of leather with torture implements). You guys should do a Zork-style adventure. I’m pretty sure there’s some open-source stuff for that out there because I accidentally stumbled across some “adult” text-based adventure games sometime last year that appeared to have been freeware written by hobbyists.

  26. J says:

    @roxysteve

    Mechwarrior! I spent my teenage years playing the hell out of Mechwarrior 2 and MW2: Mercenaries on my woefully underpowered PC with integrated graphics. That game made me buy into the 3dfx Voodoo2 to play that thing. 3D-only graphics acceleration… wow, old memories.

    The really nice feature of that game was the way they implemented jump jets, which were more like maneuvering jets controlled by J and the Ins/Del/Home/End/PgUp/PgDn block. You could move on the ground and steer in midair like nobody’s business. (Death from above, anyone?) This is why to this day I will still hate on the new “improved” keyboards that screw with that sacred 6 key block. Logitech and Microsoft, I’m looking at you.

    Constrast to when I played MechAssault on my cousin’s Xbox some years back. Unified life bar, no parts damage, unlimited ammo, no mech customization… talk about dumbing down the experience. I had fun leveling cities anyway, but it just wasn’t the same.

    Lack of buttons and a freaking mouse are the real drawbacks to a console. But who knows, maybe the Wiimote will at least alleviate the latter…

  27. If you want a manager, that’s me. It’s actually for precisely this reason that I’m a bitch to manage: I get everything set up the way I like it and NO ONE BETTER TOUCH IT! YOU HEAR ME!!!

    If you want to turn someone into a manager, give them an astonishingly tedious and overcomplicated job for a year. Every time they create a process improvement, give them another task to juggle. Then, just when they’ve reached critical mass, hand a staff over to them and tell them to delegate. Watch as the firestorm of organizational might is unleashed.

    The trouble is that I have so many things of my own going on currently I don’t know if I could add another project. I’m running a D&D game, working on a novel, then there’s my job, and I may need to find a NEW job and MOVE soon. (Actually, I’m kind of looking forward to that one.)

    I’m going to start trying polyphasic sleep to see if I can squeeze more productive hours out of my day.

  28. Phlux says:

    Shamus and Shawn, you may kid…but making a text-based adventure game is actually “game design 101” type stuff. Some of the best fun I’ve ever had in gaming has been in text adventures (and I’m only in my mid twenties). Zork is amazing, and with modern tools its results could be duplicated in weeks or months depending on time commitment, even as a solo job.

    I for one absolutely love the idea, and I’m not kidding a bit, of a chainmail bikini / DMoTR style text adventure. It could jump around between in-game and out of game. In game you are shamelessly railroaded around faced with awful dialogue, page-long descriptions and innane quests.

    Then you bounce out of character and perform epic feats such as “get soda from fridge” or “give emo cd to marcus”.

    It could be fantastic. Check out the Adrift engine, or the TADS engine for interactive fiction development.

    Also in the creation of 3D games, if designing from the ground up there’s always the Torque engine for indy developers. It’s about 250 per dev I think. If you promised to make us a game, I’m sure we’d all buy a T-Shirt or something to pay for it. :)

  29. ThVaz says:

    The most innovative computer game in development is based in ASCII graphics and 100%orifginal gameplay, and is developed by 2 guys, and one only of them is the programmer: Dwarf Fortress. Google it and read reviews, It’s a fever in various fora across the net (Something Awful for example).
    http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/

  30. Shawn says:

    Phlux:

    I’m not joking, well not entirely at least. In some mythical future when I have a bit more free time, I’d love to tackle a project like that.

  31. Bogan The Mighty says:

    Shamus all I got to say is if you ever were to tackle a gaming project you know that my pathetic programming skills got your back!

  32. Rustybadger says:

    If I can find a phone, Tank can download a Managerial Program to me from the Matrix. Then we’ll be set!

  33. Hey, I’m a huge cheerleader / evangelist of indie game development. I’m quick to encourage anyone who wants to try and tackle it.

    But I’ll be the first to tell you that it is extremely difficult, and usually not worth the effort in terms of “return on investment.”

    But hey, if you change your mind, gimme a holler!

  34. Miral says:

    DGM: “1) Leadership skills: You don't need these if you fly solo.”

    You’re kidding, right? It takes almost as much skill to lead/manage yourself as it does to manage others.

    I know that for certain, since I have absolutely zero leadership/management skills, and as a result I’ve got a few programs that are all ready to be released, but haven’t been because I haven’t gotten around to writing the installer for them yet (because there’s more interesting things to do instead).

  35. ngthagg says:

    Re: Superiority of control in PC vs Console.

    This will last until a keyboard and mouse is a standard add-on for consoles. Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero showed that it takes only one good game to sell a periphial. The biggest problem I see is that everyone I know plays console games on a couch, and it is hard to balance a keyboard and mouse on your knees and play effectively.

    Re: Shamus making games.

    I understand what you mean, Shamus. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Implementation is what counts. For me as a reader and consumer, good commentary is more valuable than a half finished, always stalled game. For example, Rampant Coyote’s work on Frayed Knights has given me little in the way of gameplay experiences, but has offered a ton of insight. (He is responsible for me buying Aveyond, which has been a delight to play.) Since the time it takes to create a game would cut into your blogging time, I’m happier to have you blogging than creating.

    Of course, this isn’t about me. But I certainly support your decision not to get into games half-assed. The problem the games market faces right now can be attacked two ways: bottom up, by creating better games without dependence on monolithic publishers, or top down, by convincing said publishers not to sabotage their own games with DRM or DIAS gameplay or whatever.

    ngthagg

  36. Greg says:

    One thing I will point out is that managing the development of a game, or anything, for that matter, is extremely time consuming. Right now, I’m the team leader for BattleGrounds 2, and even that suffers because I actually have a real job as well as a US Navy Hospital Corpsman. So, if you want a good manager, I hate to say it, but you really need someone who can afford to spare about 6 hours a day, and that can become a lot when you figure on 8 hours of sleep, and 8 hours of work. That only leaves 2 hours of free time, assuming you have no hobbies outside of work and this ONE game.

  37. scragar says:

    I have the exact opposite problem Shamus, I’ve made a few web based games in my time, but after getting the basic systems set up I’ve always run out of ideas as to what story or extras to add and wind up deleting it so I can try something else.

  38. DGM says:

    Miral: “You're kidding, right? It takes almost as much skill to lead/manage yourself as it does to manage others.”

    Shamus was speaking specifically of leading others, not motivating himself. I quote him: “I'm not the right guy to gather up a squad of creative types and Make Something Happen. I'm an engineer, not a foreman.” (emphasis mine)

    Shamus has already demonstrated his ability to start and complete a large task himself. Click “Projects” in the “Categories” sidebar and the first thing you’ll see are a list of entries entitled “Terrain, Part X.”

  39. Mattius Caesar says:

    Honest of you to say all this. Shows your character. However, it *did* start to get annoying hearing about BioShock, but maybe that was because I decided not to buy it and the rant didn’t stop ;)

    I don’t hold it against you.

  40. DGM says:

    “On top of all of this, game “journalists” are AWOL on this stuff. The major gaming press doesn't get near these issues. So, my constant hammering away on the BioShock DRM fiasco is almost an attempt to make up for their silence. Somebody has to say something.”

    Shamus, if you’re hesitant to make your own games and think the current crop of journalists are dropping the ball analyzing everyone else’s, have you considered going the journalism route yourself?

    After all, if this guy can do it:

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/zeropunctuation/1394-Zero-Punctuation-BioShock

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/zeropunctuation/2304-Zero-Punctuation-Halo-3

  41. Davesnot says:

    Damn it Jim, I’m a doctor … not a mason! Shed the engineer label, dude.. you can do anything you set your mind to.. just ask your Mom!

  42. Casper says:

    @scragar- man, I have just the opposite problem- I'm full of ideas, but can never finish them. That just goes to show have productive the right teamwork could be.

    I say: Let`s do it! Let`s make a game!
    And to make the project successful, we must set the right goals:
    1. Have lots of fun
    2. Finish the game (if possible and we still want to)

    If the right goals are set, you can`t lose.

    Shamus, you just need to set up a discussion place and participate as much (or less) you want. Even if we don`t get further than the basic discussion of what the game should be, it will still be fun.
    Everyone should participate as much they want to and have fun- that's our goal No 1.

  43. The almighty penguin says:

    could you please post the game ideas?
    pretty please?

  44. Mavis says:

    Have you looked at Metaplace? At the momment there is almost nothing there – and it will be a long time away. However – it aims to be a set of tools to allow somebody to generate a game easily and to allow people to share ideas and work easily.

    Work a look. But a long time before we see anything from it….

  45. Alexis says:

    Failure is a learning activity. Check out Paul Graham and Y-Combinator. Honestly though it sounds like you’re happy where you are :)

    Post the ideas. Dignity has no place on the internet. I showed you mine.

    Your definition of a game idea is interesting. AFAIC mechanics maketh the game, the story is usually orthogonal to the mechanics. Look at a genre. What taken-for-granted feature can you rip out to turn it into something new? My whole MMO idea is rooted in two design decisions – 1) grind-free alts, 2) no healing. All the crap about ghostly parasites mutating and splicing animal dna is cover for the mechanics.

  46. beno says:

    I look back on the good ol’ days when we could throw together a 500-line-of-code text adventure on a Commodore 64 and pass it around to friends. Back then, that was cool!

    Hey I just remembered – I actually invented a game genre: text wrestling! I didn’t have the know-how to do any graphics at all, so I just used text:

    Stone Cold Steve Austin has you in a head lock.
    What do you do next?
    >

    You made choices about what manoeuvres you’d try, and your chances of succeeding depended on the stats of the wrestler you were playing. I even had a semi-random pre-match interview simulator, and a Royal Rumble simulator.

    Those were the days ;-) Sure these games are tres crappy by today’s standards, but that’s the point – the bar wasn’t as high then, so anybody could come along and contribute.

    Is there an equivalent user-contributor forum for games today? I wonder how difficult it is to put together those little Flash games you can find on the internet…

  47. Mavis says:

    Hello Beno…

    Mavis here from post 45….

    You sound like your interested in Metaplace. I sound like a PR hack I know…. But the point/intention is to lower the bar to create stuff.

    Go look at what I said in post 45…

  48. Rob says:

    I say you start a wiki or other seperate area for people to seriously discuss this idea and see what we come up with. I’ll do my best to chip in where I can.

  49. JungianYoung says:

    Hate to interrupt the open source lovefest, but how many
    open source/indy games have been successfully deployed in the market in the last few years? I remember waiting for FreeCiv FOREVER, until I gave up and bought Civ III. I love
    NetHack and free text “interactive fiction” type games too,
    but I don’t think those hard-working developers are paying
    their bills that way.

    Like Shamus said, good ideas are cheap as dirt. Judging from the SourceForge archives, programmers with good intentions are slightly cheaper.

    Shamus, how about an easier and infinitely-more-likely-to-be-successful way to “use your powers for awesome.” How about highlighting more cool PC games and developers that “do the right thing”? My personal favorite would be Stardock. I love their user-friendly distribution method (even though their games are not exactly my cup of tea.)

    Imagine if you can convince every one of your readers to
    buy a game or support a product from one of these developers, and convince their PC owner friends to do the same. Imagine if those developers then survive, thrive, and bring you more gaming goodness.

    Why start up Yet Another Open Source Project that will, at best, suck up a few hundred man hours of work to have a one-in-a-thousand chance of producing ONE good game?
    Your readers’ (and their friends and facebook friends’) purchase of ONE good game from one of the GOOD guys every month or so will do infinitely more to help the PC gaming industry.

  50. Schmidt says:

    From here.
    http://braid-game.com/news/?p=102

    These two videos explain a lot of the what for.

    http://www.sumean.com/Freeplay07JonathanBlow.wmv
    http://ia341209.us.archive.org/3/items/igs-2007-jon-blow-indie-prototyping/igs-2007-jon-blow-indie-prototyping.mov

    I also suggest these as a lot of what we take for granted can be surprisingly complex;
    http://kongregate.com/games/pixelate/understanding-games-episode-1
    Theres 4 of them, just change the number.

    I can suggest other material to make a one man marching band.

    Hell, you might even enjoy it.

  51. Schmidt says:

    Oh, I suggest you download those two videos, the buffering can be poor.

  52. Zaghadka says:

    Hey. I’ve thought of designing games, have a limited understanding of programming, love Zork and all things Infocom, the C=64, etc. My real strength is probably writing technical manuals, but heck, you’re gonna need someone to do that too.

    If y’all decide to go ahead with starting up some game studio, I suggest “Godforsaken Game Studios,” shoot me an email. I can think of worse things to blow my time on.

    It’s certainly intriguing.

    >THROW RULEBOOK AT JOSH

    The Josh, who is remarkably coordinated, catches the rulebook and, not having the most discriminating taste, gleefully eats it.

  53. Christian Groff says:

    *le sigh* I saw those shiny new college programs advertising game design, and then Krellen comes in and dashes my dreams.

    Maybe I’ll just try to earn a degree in video editing and apply for odd jobs around San Antonio. With the slap-dash degree I have, chances are pigs will fly and katamari will really appear and roll us up into the sun before I get enough money to fund any repairs on my laptop(which has a broken spacebar – I’m using an aux keyboard to type),

  54. Miako says:

    well… you see, there’s these people…
    They’re making The Dark Mod, for Doom (whatever iteration ID is on _now_).

    When it’s done, making a new thief game should be about as easy as circling up thirty people and divying them up… just like the game developers do it.

    but try one fan mission first (to get the workload down).

    And the bonus is: With five people working on a level, you don’t need real management skills.

  55. TalrogSmash says:

    Managerial Skills – when you start working on it, you will
    beat yourself up until it works

    Money – Many free games have donation buttons, sell power ups,
    or have members sections for low subscription rates. Many
    games alpha stages are kept alive by these methods. See:
    Runescape, Tibia, Ogre Island, ADOM, Angband, etc.

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