Enslaved Writer Thinks Games Industry Has Grown Too Fast

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Enslaved Writer Thinks Games Industry Has Grown Too Fast

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Screenwriter and novelist Alex Garland says that the rapid growth of videogames means that some types of games may never get made.

Garland, whose works include Sunshine and 28 Days Later and more recently helped write Ninja Theory's Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, thinks that videogames have missed a few important steps in their development.

Garland thought that videogames had jumped straight to "bloated Hollywood megabucks, mega-resources-type products," and said that such a development was dangerous because it influenced the type of games that got greenlit. He made a comparison to his next movie, the new Judge Dredd film, saying that it had a budget of $30 million, but that it was very hard to get such a relatively small budget, because studios only were only interested in $200 million super-blockbusters.

Drawing on another film analogy, he said that he couldn't see how anyone could make the videogame equivalent of Taxi Driver - the 1976 Martin Scorsese movie which stars Robert De Niro as a depressed former marine - with the videogame industry focused so much on huge AAA titles. He hoped that if someone took the risk and made a Taxi Driver-esque game, people would investigate it and buy it, but he didn't think that was very likely.

Videogames have grown so much faster than any other medium; it's unsurprising that their development has taken an unusual path. Whether games will go back and fill in the gaps left by this rapid growth is anyone's guess, although with digital distribution changing the way games are made and making it easier for smaller, indie titles to get noticed, maybe in a few years that Taxi Driver inspired game won't look so risky.

Source: Edge

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Well the way I see it is that the video games industry is in it's adolescence (possibly perpetually). The "video nasties", the AAA blockbusters and so on are there because two of the three companies running this industry are hardware and software companies.

They have essentially turned each generation into a hardware arms race, and with games costing so much to produce...well you heard the man. From a business standpoint, why greenlight a game that won't get you any return?

I agree though, digital distribution is the way to go for Taxi-Driver esque games to get noticed. But I think when/if companies slow their roll on the hardware front, then we'll reach maturity and focus on quality content over quality sheen.

EDIT: Holy shit I didn't know Garland was writing the story for this! I'll have to keep my eye on it, the gameplay was decent, but I wasn't blown away by it.

I disagree. The movie industry made tons of, what were then, big budget productions. What about movies like King Kong and the Blob. They would be equivalent to AAA games. The video games industry can't be too far from its own Taxi-Driver. Although do we want a game that tells some crazy guy to kill the president?

That doesn't stop sleeper hits from coming on to the scene. Remember that Star Wars had a super small budget but still managed to be a masterpiece. Budget != everything.

Hell, look at Minecraft.

ChromeAlchemist:
Well the way I see it is that the video games industry is in it's adolescence (possibly perpetually). The "video nasties", the AAA blockbusters and so on are there because two of the three companies running this industry are hardware and software companies.

They have essentially turned each generation into a hardware arms race, and with games costing so much to produce...well you heard the man. From a business standpoint, why greenlight a game that won't get you any return?

This is probably important, and also inevitable because of how technology's exploding.

I think that video games and movies share a common production factor in the resources involved in production, which really encourages whoring what sells and not really exploring anything else. I think for both, it's looking like technology is helping out; movie-producing equipment is basically available to all, and it's becoming easier and easier to make games in 3D, or have good graphics or complicated coding.
All that needs to happen is more support for smaller ideas, and that's definitely something the industry is going to need to learn to do without the assistance of technology. And I'd like to see some more 3D Action/Adventure games in a smaller and more creative mindset than what comes from most of the big publishers these days.

However, I disagree that the movie industry is much different from that. Big movie companies are just as bad towards interesting ideas and trying new concepts as big video game companies are.

EDIT: And when I first saw this, I didn't realize he was the writer for Enslaved. I was kind of intrigued as to what an enslaved writer would think about the video game industry :P

I dunno.

I think he may be wrong. We did have a lot of those "mid level" games in the 90's. A lot of them were good too.

I agree that today we have AAA or small indy productions that are like that college kid making Black and While footage of creepy kids in hallways... ok maybe that's just LIMBO.

But, there is a gap now, I'm willing to argue that a lot of mid level good games were in the 90's.

Were System Shock and Thief the Dark project AAA titles?

How about the original X-Com?

Quality games that weren't tiny indy games or blockbusters.

Quite a few more.

I'm counting a lot of the very old classics as Small Indy games. A lot of the stuff from the Commodore 64 era literally was 1-3 people in a garage for very good product.

I hereby declare that the 1990's were the John Hughes 1980s of games!

Again, another person who knows nothing about the industry commenting on something ridiculous. Look at all the independent games that have flourished. Look at World of Goo, made by two people and earned a huge amount of money. Even Minecraft is more successful than the creator even thought or foresaw.

Maybe this guys should actually try gaming for once instead spewing stupid "facts" some industry analyst makes up.

Much like the movie industry, videogames have the indie sector. They will make the games to fill in the gaps, but few people will ever get to play them.

The Admiral:
I disagree. The movie industry made tons of, what were then, big budget productions. What about movies like King Kong and the Blob. They would be equivalent to AAA games. The video games industry can't be too far from its own Taxi-Driver. Although do we want a game that tells some crazy guy to kill the president?

The film industry has had this criticism aimed at it on several occasions as well. If I recall correctly the arguments ran that they developed film audio too fast and the studios grew too fast.

audio was developed before physically and facially expressive acting had become fully established, the result was the unique acting style all but disappeared or is seen only in exceptional actors.
There was rush to get stage actors on the screen, people used to acting with their voices but as a side effect they used exaggerated body language needed for large arenas rather than subtle motions and facial expression the cinema could allow to be shown.

Then there was the rate of growth and budget increases that flattened smaller studios, the industry had very little time where independent studios could establish themselves and grow so the industry became focused on just a handful of companies.

Video games growth has been even more rapid than films and plenty of interesting steps have rushed past in just a couple of years, our experimental with respectable budget period only lasted around 5 years in the nineties.

I don't honestly think it's a bad thing, the developments will happen at some point as huge budgets are going to prove unsustainable eventually. I think Hollywood may be in for that collapse reasonably soon and gaming companies are already complaining about reduced margins.

Is Taxi Driver of video games the new Citizen Kane of video games? Spare us, please. Anyone who is really interested in games knows that there are plenty of lower budget and no budget games that are way more interesting than most low budget movies. If you like games, that is, which seems to be a minority of people these days.

Blue_vision:

ChromeAlchemist:
Well the way I see it is that the video games industry is in it's adolescence (possibly perpetually). The "video nasties", the AAA blockbusters and so on are there because two of the three companies running this industry are hardware and software companies.

They have essentially turned each generation into a hardware arms race, and with games costing so much to produce...well you heard the man. From a business standpoint, why greenlight a game that won't get you any return?

This is probably important, and also inevitable because of how technology's exploding.

I think that video games and movies share a common production factor in the resources involved in production, which really encourages whoring what sells and not really exploring anything else. I think for both, it's looking like technology is helping out; movie-producing equipment is basically available to all, and it's becoming easier and easier to make games in 3D, or have good graphics or complicated coding.
All that needs to happen is more support for smaller ideas, and that's definitely something the industry is going to need to learn to do without the assistance of technology. And I'd like to see some more 3D Action/Adventure games in a smaller and more creative mindset than what comes from most of the big publishers these days.

However, I disagree that the movie industry is much different from that. Big movie companies are just as bad towards interesting ideas and trying new concepts as big video game companies are.

EDIT: And when I first saw this, I didn't realize he was the writer for Enslaved. I was kind of intrigued as to what an enslaved writer would think about the video game industry :P

Oh of course, the main video-game market and Hollywood are one in the same now. The thing is though is that it was decades before independent film flourished (Cannes, for example). Games just aren't at that point yet.

Traigus:
I dunno.

I think he may be wrong. We did have a lot of those "mid level" games in the 90's. A lot of them were good too.

I agree that today we have AAA or small indy productions that are like that college kid making Black and While footage of creepy kids in hallways... ok maybe that's just LIMBO.

But, there is a gap now, I'm willing to argue that a lot of mid level good games were in the 90's.

Were System Shock and Thief the Dark project AAA titles?

How about the original X-Com?

Quality games that weren't tiny indy games or blockbusters.

Quite a few more.

I'm counting a lot of the very old classics as Small Indy games. A lot of the stuff from the Commodore 64 era literally was 1-3 people in a garage for very good product.

I hereby declare that the 1990's were the John Hughes 1980s of games!

That was two generations ago though. He's talking about now, where basically the only universally accepted way of making big cash is through AAA. I doubt anyone actually starts developing an indie game and expects a huge return on it.

Baldr:
Again, another person who knows nothing about the industry commenting on something ridiculous. Look at all the independent games that have flourished. Look at World of Goo, made by two people and earned a huge amount of money. Even Minecraft is more successful than the creator even thought or foresaw.

Freak occurrences. Besides, he's talking about a Taxi Driver-esque game from a large professional company, as Taxi Driver was a $30,000,000 (1970's money) movie that got greenlit.

EDIT: Although I guess all we need are freak occurrences , but it'd be nice to get more ideas through the pipe than the odd one or two.

Baldr:
Again, another person who knows nothing about the industry commenting on something ridiculous. Look at all the independent games that have flourished. Look at World of Goo, made by two people and earned a huge amount of money. Even Minecraft is more successful than the creator even thought or foresaw.

Yeh he is looking more and more like a dick to me with his comments in Edge.

If you're not flashing your game's 'tits' at people, it's hard to keep them from being distracted. A grade-AAA game can pass by without being noticed as easily as a low-grade indie game. Depending upon the market, you can expect at least ONE group of people to see your title, and then maybe have them latch on to it.

You can blame developers and publishers and the industry as a whole for asking a lot out of a studio, but when you see people with a passion to make something, then try to make it better, it's sort of automatic that the industry, and even the culture, would follow in that stead, forgetting that the immersion didn't need to be bump-mapped, but have the 'character' it needed to be that way.

Comparably, looking back on the whole of developers and consoles in the early 90's, it's not a very big surprise. How many were out back then? Like 9 consoles? Not to mention 'physical arcades' where people ran to to spend countless hours and money on their game cabinet of choice. You were literally vying for prowess back then, and sooner or later, you either came out victorious, or were asked to go home, with all but a memory to give you credibility.

Now-a-days, it's really tradition versus progression. Between people who want to make the 'next-best-thing', and who want to return to form, and try to cling onto the group of people who grew up with them.

That whole article is fucking true, games have evolved by leaps and bounds, probably because instead of like films, where technology doesn't really matter, (acting and story do) games have always had the whole "wow, nice graphics!" thing to them, which pushed people to have better looking shit than the other guys. Basically what they said, except the arms race for film has just always been different.

ChromeAlchemist:

Traigus:
I dunno.

I think he may be wrong. We did have a lot of those "mid level" games in the 90's. A lot of them were good too.

I agree that today we have AAA or small indy productions that are like that college kid making Black and While footage of creepy kids in hallways... ok maybe that's just LIMBO.

But, there is a gap now, I'm willing to argue that a lot of mid level good games were in the 90's.

Were System Shock and Thief the Dark project AAA titles?

How about the original X-Com?

Quality games that weren't tiny indy games or blockbusters.

Quite a few more.

I'm counting a lot of the very old classics as Small Indy games. A lot of the stuff from the Commodore 64 era literally was 1-3 people in a garage for very good product.

I hereby declare that the 1990's were the John Hughes 1980s of games!

That was two generations ago though. He's talking about now, where basically the only universally accepted way of making big cash is through AAA. I doubt anyone actually starts developing an indie game and expects a huge return on it.

No, he isn't talking about now, he's talking about the history of the industry never having several phases of development.

They did. Games may have had those stages a lot faster than the movie industry but they didn't jump over them completely.

I agree the indies don't expect a lot of cash, but there are a few that have done pretty well for themselves off of Steam or XBL.

I'd like to see more single A games again. I'm not sure that I wanna see B games though.

He is right...
When games were a new medium a few genra's amerged and over time they have only developed. New machanics becames available but nothing truely new has come about.
In the industry there seams to be 2 extreams cheap indie titals and AAA but no middle ground.
In the Movie buisness you got a huge range in budgets, and good things comming out from all sides.
Its getting to the point where inertive games dont have the funding needed to go anywhere and samey games have such a high budget they cannot risk anything. But with no middle ground there is no inertive cheap titals with a budget to make somthing playable with out too much risk of lossing.

1.) Obtain $2
2.) Make Taxi Driver the Video game
3.) ????
4.) PROFIT!

I don't see the problem and I think Garland is taking a slanted, ousider perspective. Meaning: he's only seeing one side of the equation.

It's fairly obvious that what he says is true, but only in terms of the "standard video game industry." The tools available to everyone to make videogames are catching up so that in ten to fifteen years, either indie projects or open projects will take those kinds of steps that Garland is talking about.

The only thing lacking is the infrastructure for people to get together and make games using the available tools. It has been shown that given the proper circumstances people will get together and make the games they want, were that not the case the Mod community would not even exist.

For example: Yo! Frankie is a videogame backed by the Blender foundation that seemed to do what it was designed to do which was merely to be a functional platformer; or Minecraft which we all know about; or those artsy fartsy games that are starting to pop up. Also, with content delivery systems like Steam and steamworks, more people have it within their grasp to distribute their creations.

It will take way more time than in films to get a 'Taxi Driver' kind of game but it will definitely happen.

The difference being that other forms of media were started based on entertainment in storytelling. Video Games started through gameplay, aka the quickest way to be entertained in the biggest way possible. So, naturally, in the midpoint of their development, they'd be hitting the gameplay, aka explosions and death, high instead of the storytelling high other medias hit whenever the hell they did. So we'll get through this and have the opposite effect of movies and radio, and story will start to matter in a bigger way. We're already seeing it start.

Plus, the fact that the economy's royally furked in the arse means that they're trying to make their money back by cloning successful games. And no clone is as good as the first. Except X-23.

I blame graphics. The moment graphics became more important to a game project than the gameplay and story it all went to hell in a handbasket.

Dioxide20:
Much like the movie industry, videogames have the indie sector. They will make the games to fill in the gaps, but few people will ever get to play them.

Not true. Digital Distribution is changing the game, maybe for the better. Smaller, more innovative and risky titles can be pushed through these channels.

I'm a little confused. Does Mr. Enslaved Writer want to see the video game equivalents of character-focused, low budget movies, or does he want to see low budget video games that do the same kind of stories as character-focused, low budget movies? Because while the first is debatably a thing, the second is not: video games are not movies, so no one should be expecting a video game that perfect simulates a type of movie.

Now about the first sense, if that's indeed what he meant. Where is it written that the development path movies have taken is the model for all other forms of new media? Video games and movies share a lot of elements, but they are very different things. Look at the development of comic books - they didn't follow movie's development history history (they started small and goofy, got big and goofy, then got small and serious, then got big and serious, then got big and goofy, and now you can get whatever kind you want). If anything, games seem to be mirroring that development path.

Finally, I must of course mention that small, character-driven movies equivalents are not necessarily anything games should be aspiring to. So let's say there is an equivalent type of game. Do we want it? Is it fun to play? Will anyone care?

Again, games and movies are different things, and as we all know, you can't compare apples to oranges. Maybe writing for both movies and games has confused the issue for Mr. Enslaved Writer.

There have been many beautiful thought provoking games and he just hasn't played them. Also Taxi Driver would make a terrible game no one would want to play it. Videogames are very different from movies and the way they evoke emotional responses are more involved so in the hands of a good games designer and writer you can have as deep an experience as a movie

I think Independent Developers are filling those gaps.

We've got indies, right?

I don't want to stoke their egos any more, but they seem to be the only games that interest me at the moment.

The lack of italics make all the difference in the world.

And yeah, that's really what indies are for.

supply and demand, my man.

if the people who appreciate games actively buy indie games or enter the industry with the commitment to make better games (rather than "big bucks" games) it'll get done. Painting everything so black and white seems kind of ignorant for a filmmaker, don't you think?

Traigus:

ChromeAlchemist:

Traigus:
I dunno.

I think he may be wrong. We did have a lot of those "mid level" games in the 90's. A lot of them were good too.

I agree that today we have AAA or small indy productions that are like that college kid making Black and While footage of creepy kids in hallways... ok maybe that's just LIMBO.

But, there is a gap now, I'm willing to argue that a lot of mid level good games were in the 90's.

Were System Shock and Thief the Dark project AAA titles?

How about the original X-Com?

Quality games that weren't tiny indy games or blockbusters.

Quite a few more.

I'm counting a lot of the very old classics as Small Indy games. A lot of the stuff from the Commodore 64 era literally was 1-3 people in a garage for very good product.

I hereby declare that the 1990's were the John Hughes 1980s of games!

That was two generations ago though. He's talking about now, where basically the only universally accepted way of making big cash is through AAA. I doubt anyone actually starts developing an indie game and expects a huge return on it.

No, he isn't talking about now, he's talking about the history of the industry never having several phases of development.

They did. Games may have had those stages a lot faster than the movie industry but they didn't jump over them completely.

I agree the indies don't expect a lot of cash, but there are a few that have done pretty well for themselves off of Steam or XBL.

I'd like to see more single A games again. I'm not sure that I wanna see B games though.

Could you name a couple of A titles that were released on home consoles? Personally, I feel like the PC and console environments are rather separate, and that phase was only on the PC as I can't think of many titles being held in such high regard without being AAA on consoles.

I mean the PC is still getting games like Amnesia: Dark Descent and The Void. These games are ultimately what he is saying are missing from the video games market, and he's right because they are high quality but low buzz titles on the PC that many haven't played mainly because they are absent from the rest of the market, much like X-Com and System Shock 2, which were also on the PC and sold next to nothing.

I dunno, perhaps soon we'll get more A titles on the XBLA and PSN. Like the indie games we're getting now, but with a larger budget:


Maybe we're not likely to get some shining gem of an inspired project amidst the crowd of Triple A titles, but that's what the Indies are for. They have the opportunity to take risks and take on projects that big companies would turn down in a heartbeat. It would be best for a happy medium, but nowadays Indie-quality is getting closer to mainstream.

I guess by film analogies, the big companies are...bit companies, focussed on blockbusters; the Indies would be the art-house films that are most likely going to go overlooked, but are cheaper and potentially more inventive.

While I get his point, that's kinda where independant arms of a big studio could fill that gap.

ChromeAlchemist:

Could you name a couple of A titles that were released on home consoles? Personally, I feel like the PC and console environments are rather separate, and that phase was only on the PC as I can't think of many titles being held in such high regard without being AAA on consoles.

I mean the PC is still getting games like Amnesia: Dark Descent and The Void. These games are ultimately what he is saying are missing from the video games market, and he's right because they are high quality but low buzz titles on the PC that many haven't played mainly because they are absent from the rest of the market, much like X-Com and System Shock 2, which were also on the PC and sold next to nothing.

I dunno, perhaps soon we'll get more A titles on the XBLA and PSN. Like the indie games we're getting now, but with a larger budget:

I can't say that I can for the current Gen of consoles. PS3 and 360 have pretty much been AAA from the start. I still own every 360 game I have ever bought. Looked in the box just now and anything I saw that was really good was a AAA... but many were made by companies that were not that big in the 90s / early 2000s.

I'd argue that the PS2 had games in every segment though. Everything from AAA to Shovelware crap. Less so for the first X-Box, but still moderately true. So there were some good things in the early 2000s for console, not just the 90s for PC.

Huge number of games at that time and we can argue what was a AAA at the time or merely an A game by budget if you want. But there were a lot of good games (technology permitting) made by not huge places that were received well and made good enough money for the companies to do decently... and to my regret often become or be eaten by AAA studios. Take a look not everything on that list can possibly be just AAA or indy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_PlayStation_2_games

(not sure which set of code this forum uses so not a clicky)

I'll weed through it later today for specific examples of my own.

Again, not arguing there isn't a gap now. Just saying that the author guy is off saying we never got that kinda stuff. We just didn't get it for a long long time.

I think people here are missing the point about the "Taxi Driver" quote. He's not referring to indies (which the video game industry already has), he's talking about a medium budget movie that still manages to do something "different" like Taxi Driver did.

I guess in that regard Portal or Mirror's Edge are like Taxi Driver in that they both tried to do something new with the first person perspective, but games like that are still few and far in between.

FloodOne:

Dioxide20:
Much like the movie industry, videogames have the indie sector. They will make the games to fill in the gaps, but few people will ever get to play them.

Not true. Digital Distribution is changing the game, maybe for the better. Smaller, more innovative and risky titles can be pushed through these channels.

I see what you mean, digital distribution really is making indie games shine, but they aren't shining anywhere near as bright as the super games that get their own marketing teams with 100 million dollar budgets.

Blah blah blah, we still have indie games. Just because an industry is at the point where it's producing multi-million dollar hits doesn't mean it's incapable of innovation or producing unexpected hits. This can all pretty much be answered by the Innovation episode of Extra Credits.

And one other note, another Judge Dredd? All I can think of is this;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6cyDsuNx_U

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