77: The Rise and Fall of Troika

How Interplay's Golden Boys Struck Out on Their Own

The Rise and Fall of Troika

As always, great article. However, it was Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor that had the bug that wiped your hard drive, not The Temple of Elemental Evil.

As always, great article. However, it was Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor that had the bug that wiped your hard drive, not The Temple of Elemental Evil.

After reading this article, it reminded me of something plaguing many other games out there. How many games have been released that should not have been in their current state? A lot.

I'm very naive when it comes to publisher/developer contracts, but it would make sense to me that each has a percentage of the profits from the game. So why isn't there a situation where the developer can go over budget and deliver the product late with penalties? ...or is there? Like, for every month after the supposed date, you get less 0.X% from the profits. Also, all profits go to the publisher until all developer expenditures over the budget amount are repaid.

In the above scenario, it would be the in the publisher's best interest for the developer to make a solid game and see the completion of an artistic vision. I mean, the publisher actually has more to gain when the completion date is missed and the developer will make more in the end with a finished product. Also, solid games continue to sell long after the publisher's marketing efforts have finished.

I'm mostly thinking out loud, but I don't understand the need for a publisher to make the calls on a product's release date against the protests of the developer. If a publisher cannot sustain itself for 10 or more months without the profits from a particular title's release, then maybe developers shouldn't sign with that publisher. If a publisher was actually interested in putting out quality product, they'd have a clause to penalize the developer's profit sharing, but not the end product. Why does the end product have to suffer for the publishers to make their money? It makes absolutely zero sense to me.

Either the publishers have to change the way they operate or the developers need stick to their guns and not be so desperate to sign with whoever is willing. I would love nothing more than to see talented people developing successful games on small budgets and small teams. Who says that a successful game has to have a huge budget and an army of developers? ...Publishers? ;-)

"Bugginess" is also a cipher to allow critics to pan a game that isn't a tightly integrated element of a hype battering ram.

Yet another article about why this industry bites, why it's self-destructive and why it will die, need to die and is dying, how its artistic personas aren't being used/treated right and why today's games suck cause of it.

And of course, it's all very sadly true.

I thought it was an article about how a few really talented, artistic people failed to operate a successful business because, in spite of their awesome creative talent, they had no idea how to run a successful business.

But I guess we all read into these kinds of things what we want.

To address Echolocating's point, the problem isn't quite as simple as that. As I understand it, in a lot of cases, it's not as simple as a publisher saying, "We'll give you 50% of the cut if you make a good game let's be friends." A lot of times, the publisher is actually paying the developer to work on the game. The usual thinking is, if they push it out, they will make x amount of money, as opposed to spending another month/six months/year keeping the developer afloat and maybe possibly making more money down the line.

Or to simplify it some, you can have $20 now, or you can wait a year, paying me $1 for every month, and maybe see some return at the end.

Echolocating:

After reading this article, it reminded me of something plaguing many other games out there. How many games have been released that should not have been in their current state? A lot.

I'm very naive when it comes to publisher/developer contracts, but it would make sense to me that each has a percentage of the profits from the game. So why isn't there a situation where the developer can go over budget and deliver the product late with penalties? ...or is there? Like, for every month after the supposed date, you get less 0.X% from the profits. Also, all profits go to the publisher until all developer expenditures over the budget amount are repaid.

In the above scenario, it would be the in the publisher's best interest for the developer to make a solid game and see the completion of an artistic vision. I mean, the publisher actually has more to gain when the completion date is missed and the developer will make more in the end with a finished product. Also, solid games continue to sell long after the publisher's marketing efforts have finished.

I'm mostly thinking out loud, but I don't understand the need for a publisher to make the calls on a product's release date against the protests of the developer. If a publisher cannot sustain itself for 10 or more months without the profits from a particular title's release, then maybe developers shouldn't sign with that publisher. If a publisher was actually interested in putting out quality product, they'd have a clause to penalize the developer's profit sharing, but not the end product. Why does the end product have to suffer for the publishers to make their money? It makes absolutely zero sense to me.

Either the publishers have to change the way they operate or the developers need stick to their guns and not be so desperate to sign with whoever is willing. I would love nothing more than to see talented people developing successful games on small budgets and small teams. Who says that a successful game has to have a huge budget and an army of developers? ...Publishers? ;-)

I am by no means an industry expert, but from what I have read here and other places, the demands of consumers for quality games forces developers to embark on epic projects that require a tremendous amount of money and human resources. Furthermore, you really cannot blame the publishers for demanding that a development team stick to its contract. They too have a company to run in an industry were many titles fail to make a profit. We may lament that the 50 Cent and latest uninspired Madden iteration sell so many copies, but the profits they make on those less than stellar games provide the capital to produce quality games that have a somewhat limited audience.

I think the problem lies in the nature of the development process. I think more developers need to embrace the concept of outsourcing. We need several specialty studios that do one thing really great and have a cost effective and streamlined production process. Primary concept studios can then outsource work to these studios to save time and money. It is a fairly new concept in the industry, but it is catching on. I think that we will see this model become applied more often in the future. Troika's games could certainly have benefited from an external quality assurance consultant. Having a small group of employees banging their heads against a wall for four years to push an ambitious title to market, only to have it fail do to poor testing seems like a ludicrous business model to me. It seems that this has become the industry standard, even in large development houses. A re-thinking of the current "crunch time" development paradigm definitely needs to be replaced by a more intelligent model.

I realize that publishers fund the development and the profit split isn't 50/50. I'm also not condoning that developers be allowed to break a contract. I'm just talking about making smarter contracts that don't infringe on the quality of a product. Nowhere have I seen more money being made from shoddy end products than in the videogame industry.

heavyfeul:
I am by no means an industry expert, but from what I have read here and other places, the demands of consumers for quality games forces developers to embark on epic projects that require a tremendous amount of money and human resources.

You're not giving publishers enough credit here. I think there is a difference between what the consumers demand and what publishers tell consumers to demand. It's called marketing... and it's extremely effective on younger persons with large amounts of disposable income. It's in the best interest of publishers to fund games that promote costly "cutting edge" graphics because... they don't have to do anything to promote these titles; the screenshots sell the product.

Okay, I'm done ranting now. ;-)

A very sad read. Maybe some day people like these guys will be able to make games again. I sure hope so.

Indeed, a sad read. But fear not for Bloodlines, it has (I'm told) one of the most active and dedicated communities on internet, and they're pumping out a lot of patches.

they had plans to make the spiritual sequel to FALLOUT!!!!!! NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

This just make me sad. But in honor to the work they did I have to say that this was probably one of the greatest RPG developing studios of all time. Just feels bad that they werent around the age of Steam- i'm pretty sure the profits gained from going directly to the costumer rather than throw the publisher would have generated enough profits to keep such a small indie going. All they needed was just some extra time to polish their products.

 

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