What Would Matt Do

I reckon I aim to play some games.

Archive for the ‘Wobblies’ Category

Fastest way to make stop buying games from your company, start supporting Glenn Beck.

with 10 comments

 

I just saw this link being passed around by Game Politics. It’s simple, short and really gets the point across:

it looks like Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has taken the boycott a step further. According to the Angry Bear blog, Wardell has announced on his Facebook page that he is now boycotting UPS because they pulled their ads from Fox. He said Stardock does "a non-trivial amount of shipping with UPS" and if they did not change their position, he was taking Stardock’s business to FedEx.

The point? Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, makers of great games like Galactic Civ, publisher of Demigod, and developer of upcoming Elemental is now supporting a seriously insane man.

The main point? I’m no longer advocating nor supporting anything Stardock is involved with. Sadly enough.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m for each to their own, but when you take it from your opinion to your company line, that changes things. For instance, I have a mechanic who I’ve been with for years now. One of the most honest, good mechanics I’ve ever met (Trust me, it’s hard to find a good mechanic) who also is a serious republican and a huge supporter of McCain. But at no point did he make me start supporting his views, donating to his charities, or stop using companies because they didn’t agree with his views.

If you can’t get have separation between your radically awful ideas and your company, then I can no longer support you or your activities. Maybe every company should be polliticially driven and advocate for their guys and their ideas…but until recently, Stardock wasn’t, even though Brad Wardell was.

That has changed and so has my opinion of the company. So, with that, I won’t be buying any more Stardock games. Plain and simple.

 

What Would Matt Do: I’ll stop anticipating Elemental and stop caring what else Stardock does. A very sad day in gaming.

 

Written by Matt

September 28th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Is EA winning the ad war?

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Or it might be titled, "How EA acts like douches and profits". Here’s the deal. EA posted a new ad campaign right before Comic Con. That particular ad campaign suggested that people at Comic Con find a booth babe and commit an act of lust. I kid you not. Now, of course, in the finer print, they define that as taking a picture with a booth babe.

If you’re new to the video game culture, you might not know that at many major shows the game industry is involved in, they get hot girls to dress up in skimpy and/or tight fighting clothes as either a) some ridiculous character from whatever game they are promoting or b) just a hot girl in small clothes. Ok, booth babe defined. They are the girls that look good to bring in the geeks to the booth and the advertising for whatever game. Yes, it’s much like a car show in that regard. Usually the girls aren’t dressed quite as racy as car shows, but the idea is the same. Whatever your opinion is regarding booth babes, they do exist and they probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon (they were banned from E3 for one year total before being brought back). Personally, I love me some beautiful ladies dressed up cosplay costumes. I’m not saying that makes it right or that women aren’t being objectified, they obviously are. And to be fair, LOTS of people are dressing up in costumes for these cons, so it kind of fits in.

Whatever the case though, the women working there have a job to do and from what I can see, a fair number of them enjoy it. It’s not like they are forced to be there…well, anymore than I’m forced to be at my job. I do like eating and paying my bills. So, we have these women working a show in tiny clothes with…not always socially well adjusted people. They get pawed, groped, etc from to time. I’ve heard bad stories and I’ve heard good stories.

Here’s where the problem comes in… EA just asked people to commit acts of lust targeted at booth babes for some dumb marketing campaign for their new game where they destroy Daunte’s Inferno (er, bring it to gamers). So now the women working these shows have to deal with added group of people that aren’t always particular socially adjusted and are looking to get pictures of themselves doing whatever they can for a contest to win…a pretend date with some other hot ladies. Great. Go fucking EA. Pretty much par for the course for you guys. They even tried to sound somewhat contrite when it was pointed out…not very convincingly.

Here’s the real problem… the fucking ad campaign worked. Just look around the web. Coverage from the big guys, to the little guys, everyone weighing in, most saying what jackasses EA are, some defending them. Some were so over eager in their defense, the articles they had up about mere days ago have been erased from the site as if it never existed. Yeah, I’m looking at you, BioBreak. No worries, it was an exceedingly dumb article anyway. My favorite gaming blogger (and he should be yours) makes some good connections and points. We’ve also got jackass comments from people claiming to be developers even though they haven’t released a game in 10+ years about how it’s not such a big deal

 

What does it all boil down to? EA wins. That’s right, it all comes down to, no matter what booth babes had to deal with or whoever won the contest (best runner up…because he’s declining the reward), EA got exactly what they wanted out of it. Publicity and coverage. That’s awesome. Congrats EA, your marketing team really knows how to generate controversy. To bad your game dev teams can’t make good games (mostly) in the 9 month development schedule you give them. You’d think for all of the money they spent marketing and loving up on this damn game, they could at least make sure the game will be good. It being EA, and the source material considered, I call it now. It’ll suck. Too bad their PR machine is just starting up, this being only the second realm of hell and all… Maybe five different annoying campaigns from now people will catch on. Maybe.

 

What Would Matt Do: I’ll play along obviously. I’m doing the same as everyone else, promoting EA’s bullshit. I even play their games from to time. Doesn’t mean I’m going to get all crazy on their marketing tactics or really care about the game. I think that’s the thing EA doesn’t realize. By doing all of this, they aren’t just keeping the game in the minds of most gamers, they are making themselves, and their game by extension, look cheesy and juvenile. Could, just may be, potentially, that the game won’t get enough development time and has a very low chance of being a good game. Nah, that doesn’t matter, lets just pimp it and push it out.

Written by Matt

July 31st, 2009 at 11:03 am

Epic Fail

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 (insert bullshit picture here…no really, someone make me a bullshit picture. I have no art skills.)

I actually had to double check and make sure I haven’t already used that title since it’s so obvious and I end up spending a lot of time kicking Epic in groin (not they don’t deserve it). What do we have today in the continuing saga of Epic stupidity? We have yet another reason to never work at Epic:

Mike Capps, head of Epic, and a former member of the board of directors of the International Game Developers Association, during the IGDA Leadership Forum in late 08, spoke at a panel entitled Studio Heads on the Hot Seat, in which, among other things, he claimed that working 60+ hours was expected at Epic, that they purposefully hired people they anticipated would work those kinds of hours, that this had nothing to do with exploitation of talent by management but was instead a part of "corporate culture," and implied that the idea that people would work a mere 40 hours was kind of absurd.

Now, of course, the idea that a studio head, which Capps is, would have such notions is highly plausible; but he was, at the time, a board member of the IGDA, an organization the ostensible purpose of which is to support game developers. Not, you know, to support management dickheads.

(seen via Lum via ZenofDesign; which I can’t get to load right now)

Scott gives pretty good coverage of why crunch time is dumb and he links the most important study of all. It explains when they figured out crunch time didn’t work…the mother fucking 1900′s. That’s right, about a hundred years ago:

So, yes, Crunch Mode can increase output over the short term. But, at 60 hours per week, in no case should "the short term" be defined as anything more than eight weeks long. At that point, the costs strongly begin to outweigh the advantages. Not only have you lost all the gain those increased hours bought; you’ve also got tired, angry, burned-out workers. When you return them to a 40-hour week, their output will be sub-par for some time while they recover.

Read the whole study. No, really, go there now and read the whole thing. It’s that important for anyone that works in any industry where crunch time is seen as the norm. It completely debunks anything Epic could ever say about why they work 60 hour work weeks by default.

 

Singling out Epic isn’t really the point though. We all know Epic will do stupid shit. It’s kind of their way. What about the industry as a whole though? I don’t know of one guy working in the game industry that doesn’t have crunch time as a part of their regular job. Sometimes just for months, sometimes for years.

Why won’t the industry get a grip? Why do they think that they can defy science, conventional wisdom and common sense and continue with their ways forever?

Because game developers just don’t have the power the normal software industry guys do. And they often don’t know any better or feel trapped into it. Between the two, the ways aren’t changing. Back to Epic for a sec…they are, by all accounts, a wildly successful, development house. But not only are they not pushing for more quality of life at the job, they actively countering it AND they are, or were, a part of the body that is supposed to have some say for developers…

Publishers push unreal timelines on developers. Developers agree because they like having projects so they can get more projects and survive. Look at Obsidian. They did Knights of the Old Republic II. One of my all time favorite RPGs, even though it was never finished. They aren’t alone by any means, but that’s a good example. We see games released all of the time that either a) aren’t done or b) done, but severly limited from the original scope. That doesn’t even get into time for playtesting, beta, changes before release, etc. Another example… Relic just released Dawn of War II a little bit back. They called the game gold AND THEN had a playtest for the multiplayer.

You know what Stardock is going to do? They are working on their next game, and when they think it’s good, they are going to have a beta test. They’ll invite any that preordered it to play it not only for a quick stability check, but to have at least some input into the game about what’s fun and what’s really broken. How long are they going to do this for? Until they feel it’s ready. But hey, what do they know, they just make mad money in a dying market.

 

The question is though, what needs to happen to fix this? For one, game developers obviously need to get better at knowing how long projects are going to take AND telling publishers that there is a testing/beta window where the public will have feedback on their game. Two, game development houses need to get together and start telling publishers to go to hell. I’m not going to single any specific dev houses here, but anyone that has successful titles under their belt and is still taking on crunch time as part of life, is part of the problem. We have shining examples of the right way to do it (Valve, Stardock and Blizzard to some extent), but they are completely darkened by the business as normal routine most developers start games with.

As I said above, game developers obviously need to get better at both telling the truth about how long projects will take and about accturately figuring that out. None of that is going to change the fucked up relationship of the industry though. Maybe the likes of Stardock and Valve can change it on their own…

 

Quality of life. It’s more important than whatever dumb ass game you’re trying to release. Companies in general need to get back to working for employees instead of using them until they dry up and can’t handle it anymore. Not just in the game industry, in all industries. But while I dream about moon ponies and wish for fish with my wish making ish, I continue to hope at least a few more companies come around.

 

What Would Matt Do: Were it up to me, all corporations would be tasked with first taking care of their employees and secondly their plan to make money. Whatever the case, I won’t ever again work for a company where crunch time is just a part of the company creed. See, I like my family…

 

Written by Matt

April 8th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Used games are the devil!

with 6 comments

 

"What’s that you say? Evil used games are on the way? We’re on it!"

There are many ways to approach how the used game market is fast becoming the enemy of the developer/publisher. Truly though, it all boils down to money. More specifically, where are your hard earned dollars going to. Everything else is just flak and silliness.

Wait you say though, the used game market, what does that have to do with developers and publishers of games? If they have their way, a lot. You see, there a lot of dollars involved in the second hand market. Most of those dollars go to Gamestop and their ilk with their often annoying (at best) business practices. Developers and publishers see all of those dollars generated by their games and want to double dip. As a matter of fact, if you believe some of these guys, they want to a cut every single time you touch their game.

You know what I say to that? Fair enough. That’s right. More power to those power hungry, money grabbing, bastards. It’s the way of the land, of capitolism, and of business. Fine, that’s great. I can’t be happy enough for them that they found this whole new market as of yet untapped by them. That’s just awesome.

How are they going to get their dirty little grubbers into it though? They aren’t. They aren’t deciding to take the way of the auto manufactuerer and start selling things to go with the used cars (see toyota certification on used cars as a good example). Nope, that would take smarts and business sense. Instead, they are going to try to fuck you, the person that they want to buy their games. Yeah, that’s right, they have declared war on you:

Michael Capps: I’m not sure how big it is here [in Europe], but the secondary market is a huge issue in the United States. Our primary retailer makes the majority of its money off of secondary sales, and so you’re starting to see games taking proactive steps toward that by… if you buy the retail version you get the unlock code.

I’ve talked to some developers who are saying "If you want to fight the final boss you go online and pay USD 20, but if you bought the retail version you got it for free". We don’t make any money when someone rents it, and we don’t make any money when someone buys it used – way more than twice as many people played Gears than bought it…

[...]

Michael Capps: I’d hate to say my players are my enemies – that doesn’t make any sense!

No worries if you don’t know who Michael Capps is. He’s your basic idiot company president over at Epic and not many had heard of him until more recently when he started whining about how awful the used game market is. That’s his big claim to fame…you know, other than rolling in money as the president of Epic.

Epic isn’t alone though. They aren’t even really the driving force here. It’s EA, Microsoft, and others. The big boys of the game world. That’s actually some cause for concern. Well maybe not, what if it’s not that big of a deal, as many have claimed. What if this just a simple thing that people are getting too worked up about… Well, lets see what Tom Chick thinks:

But you might have missed the more notable bit from those comments. Without any segue or distinction, Capps conflates renting games with pirating them. He goes straight from "buying used games" to "PC games are dead because of piracy". Amazing.

As a gamers, we’ve lost so many of the battles with publishers. Multiplayer games with a single copy, thinner manuals, strategy guide sales, and copy protection all come to mind. I hate to see the used game market and rentals become another casualty of gamer apathy.

That whole post of his is spot on…but what does Chick know anyway, he’s just a game reviewer (maybe the single most known game reviewer in the industry, but anyway). What about Soren Johnsen? You remember him, the master of all things strategy (or least a really smart guy that works on AI and strategy games). Since he’s in that industry, maybe he sides with them? I think not:

Many factors come into play when a consumer decides if a specific game purchase is worth the money, and one of those factors is the perceived value from selling it back as a used game. In other words, people will pay more for a new game because they know they can get some of that money back when they trade it in at the local Gamestop. Importantly, this perceived value exists whether the consumer actually sells the game or keeps it. Wizards of the Coast has long admitted that the existence of the secondary market for Magic cards has long helped buoy the primary market because buyers perceive that the cards have monetary value.

Again, a great read. Go there, read the whole thing. He brings up a really good point. Value of a game. And that’s really the whole point of this article. The value of a game.

 

The real problem is that these publishers and developers have no long term vision.

That’s the trick that the idiots at Epic are forgetting and geniuses at Microsoft Games and EA are hoping you don’t realize with their new found war. They are actually devaluing games with their little tricks. Think about it.

If you’re looking at buying Gears of War 2, but aren’t sure if it’s going to great or worth the $60 you’re going to have to shell out for it, what factors into your decision? Worth of mouth for sure, reviews maybe, hype (i.e. – money spent on advertising) almost assuredly, but what about how much you can get for it if you decide to sell it used? Oh yeah. I know I bought GTA4 because I knew even if the game sucked (which it did, sadly enough) I could get $20-30 back for it. What if when considering GTA4 I knew that the game was mine forever or I could sell it for $5 used? That would definitely influence my decision and definitely convince me to buy less games. You can even see above, even Hasbro/WotC know that having a vibrant used market helps prop up the sales of new games.

If these jackasses have their way though, we won’t have a used game market at all anymore. You won’t be able to rent games, you won’t be able to buy cheaper games, you won’t be able to buy used games and you definitely won’t be able to sell games you don’t want anymore. What a bunch of idiots. I wonder if I’ve said it enough yet…idiots! IDIOTS!

 

Lets be serious for a moment and solve this problem

Ok, so publishers and developers see this big untapped market. What can they do about it? Well, how about digital distribution? I admit I don’t buy everything from Steam, but when it’s a Valve game, I do. Why? Because I trust those guys. They make games I like, the support the games long term, and they don’t dick me around. Worth every single penny. But…what if they sold them for less, as Soren suggests in article above? They’d be helping us out, the customer, and themselves (since they got almost all of that sale price then, instead of percentage they get at retail now).

What else though? Hmmm…what about making games that people want to buy new instead of games people feel they should rent or wait until they can buy it cheaper because the game just isn’t that good. Quality might be a damn good thing at this point.

How about long term support? Burnout Paradise? I didn’t sell it when I sold GTA4 and a couple of other games…because they keep releasing new stuff for it. How can I get rid of it when I’m just going to play it again soon?

 

So we’ve got, quality games that are worth buying at full retail price, digitial distribution (it’s also a threat to the used game market, but I only use it for things I know I won’t be selling in the future) and long term support. What about sticking it to the actual enemy (Gamestop) and make them either divy up some profits or pay more for games or any one of a hundred different things they could do? What about approaching this from a rational, well thought out point of view that involves working with the current markets and not fucking over customers?

Yeah, I know, I said rational and suggested Epic would have any idea what that means, my bad. The others though, maybe they can pull their heads out of their collective asses and see the light of day. Or maybe they’ll talk to their marketing guys and have branding and customer loyalty explained to them. Or maybe they can call up WotC (or any of the other industries that manage to not fight with their secondary markets) and find out how a good used market is good for them too.

Maybe they’ll even have an ephinony and start treating their customers like people…

 

What Would Matt Do: You know what I’ll do by this point, support those companies that treat me well. On a somewhat interesting and maybe insightful note, do we notice the solution to both the DRM/piracy matter and this one breaks down to treating people right? Weird, I know.

Written by Matt

November 13th, 2008 at 4:31 pm

This is what you should be doing about pirates.

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(happy picture included so when tl;dr this post, you’ll still feel good about it)

I covered this a bit back when Cliff Harris, the founder of indie game company Positech Games, asked the pirates, "y u take it?". I didn’t really buy into the idea then, if you didn’t get my drift, I basically said it was stupid to ask pirates why they steal. I think I was wrong. Well, at least partially.

You see, I still think it’s stupid to talk to people who are stealing your software. Not because you can’t learn from them, but because you can learn without dealing with them. They aren’t scum of the earth or anything, but they aren’t really that informed why they steal games as a whole either. It’s like asking people why they vote democratic or republican. Whatever the answers are, they won’t be the same across the board. And they may not even be true answers, just what people think is the truth at the time.

Whatever though. I was wrong in part by saying you shouldn’t ask… Because while I wasn’t for it, it changed how Cliff looks at pirates and how he’s developing his games:

As a result of what I found, I’m changing the way I make and sell my games. I already dropped some prices, and will keep future games cheaper, I abandoned copy-protection on all my games the next day, and resolved to work harder than ever before to make the best games that I can. I went from being demoralised and depressed by pirates to being motivated and encouraged by them. I asked them what they thought, then listened. Given the inability of big media companies to do either, I think I suddenly found my competitive advantage.

While I don’t know if it will work out in the long run for him, I can almost guarantee it won’t hurt. From talking with the bad guys he decided to keep his games cheap, abandon all copy protection and work harder on making the games even better. I can’t see a damn thing wrong with that.

 

Mr. Harris isn’t the only seeing that pirates aren’t the enemy many in the game industry think them to be. Wardell even created a gamer bill of rights that goes against everything we, the consumer, have had to deal with because of the potential for pirates.

Lets not short change piracy here either. Pirates steal any game that is published. You name it, you can go download it. I say so what. Pirates aren’t destroying PC gaming, PC game companies are destroying it. Pirates are just a symptom of the problem, not the actual problem.

 

The Problem

The problem is this…the PC gaming industry does the three following things wrong…

One, it doesn’t allow you to return a game. You buy it, it’s yours now. No matter how bad it is, how buggy, how much it’s not the game advertised, it’s your game and you can’t do anything about it. Returns ruin the industry because you can buy it, copy it and return it…well, at least that’s what they’d have you believe. That completely ignores the complaints of how rampant piracy is right now. If the big problem was people buying games and returning them after copying them, we wouldn’t have millions of people downloading new games. As a matter fact, this policy is outdated something fierce. It does no good to the consumer to say, "you can’t return it if it’s bad, but you can download it for free if you want." It’s a fucked up policy that is made to line the pockets of game companies and allows them to release bad games and still get sales on them.

Two, PC gaming is full of headaches and bullshit. If I buy Spore, I have to install DRM to play it. Ok, so now I’ve got a game I bought that I can’t return, but now I also can’t play my game without installing software on my computer that assumes I’m trying to steal from them. Plus, I have no idea if the game I’m buying will actually work on my system. It’s the nature of the PC system that everyone’s system is different and each and every game might need some tweaking to play. Now, to be fair, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but it’s still not pretty. Look at games by Troika for instance. Even with community patches, we still run into problems in those games. You just don’t know if a game is going to work. Will it die becaue of bugs in the game, or do you need new drivers, or will it be something else together (Company of Heroes required 4 gigs of free space on your boot drive to patch). PC games need to be much closer to console games in that they just work.

Three, game developers often don’t pay attention to the market. Pay attention to the lessons of Crysis and others. If you make a game that requires top level PC hardware, you’re drastically limiting your market. You’ve gone from a potential customer base of millions to maybe a million, maybe less (just talking US numbers here). Or if you’re releasing games that require extra hardware or don’t get along with most video cards or whatever. Game developers often aren’t paying attention to the wants of the market, but our instead trying to drive the market. That’s a hard boat be in and if you’re going to do that, could you at least skip the whining?

 

Ok, so now we have a good grasp on the problems, what should we do about it? That’s actually easier than it seems. Start treating your customers like reasonable adults. I know it’s hard for you to accept, but gamers are actually adults these days on average. Maybe you should start treating us like adults. Cliff has a good ideas about what game developers can do to start, the gamer bill of rights is also good. Basically, quit treating consumers like thieves. Start releasing higher quality products and make sure they work on most systems. QA games until they are ready to released, not release games that need to be patched a few times before they are any good.

None of this is new information, but it needs to be said again and again until developers/publishers really start to get it. I’m going to say it again, so that even the marketing guys in your company can get it.

If you make good games and respect your audience, gamers will buy them. It’s just that simple.

 

What Would Matt Do: You know what I’ll do? I’ll continue to buy Stardock games that are good quality because I like thier policies. I’ll continue to support game companies that release good game and respect me. I’ll stop supporting companies that release shlock and pretend I’m a thief that needs to be kept in line. It’s just that simple.

Written by Matt

September 12th, 2008 at 11:06 am

Posted in Gaming,Links,PC,Wobblies