Torchlight Dev: AAA Games Are Stifling the Industry

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Torchlight Dev: AAA Games Are Stifling the Industry

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Runic Games CEO, Max Schaefer, blames protracted development periods and inflated budgets for a perceived lack of innovation in the industry.

When asked about the state of the industry in 2012 during an interview with Gaming Nexus, Schaefer responded that although 2011 saw the release of some fantastic games, there's still room for improvement.

"We could still improve as an industry in pushing innovation more than $200 million projects," he said. "We stifle ourselves and our customers with over-produced, 5-year development, derivative games."

It does seem a bit rich for Schaefer to criticize "derivative" games, given that Runic Games' only game thus far has been Torchlight, a game that could be described, if you were feeling spiteful, as Diablo 2 with a pet dog. Schaefer did add that he Runic will develop new IPs in the future, but he wants his team to work on projects one at a time.

"Runic has an independent spirit, a love for game-making, a respect for our customers, and a fierce desire to stay small, nimble, and responsive," he said. "We're not trying to be the next EA, or the next Blizzard. We don't want an empire. We just want to carve out a niche where we can provide great games with incredible value."

He also had some harsh words for the traditional retail model.

"I'll get in trouble for this, but I look forward to the end of boxes and disks," he said. "Kill them with fire for all I care. The retail market has historically starved developers and narrowed the market for available games."

Source: Gaming Nexus

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Though I usually agree with Max I have got to say that is last statement missed the mark. I think a lot of developers/publishers forget the fact that an enormous portion of the gaming demographic don't have adequate internet access.

Well, he was the former founder of Blizzard North and the lead designer of Diablo II and Lord of Destruction so :P.

He does bring up a point though, when you throw hundreds of millions of dollars at a franchise you don't want to deviate from the path lest you risk not making a profit which then gets your shit shut down.

Triple A game is meaningless anyways when you can have indie devs who put out games like Terraria or Binding of Issac and Super Meat Boy where you can make a great deal of cash and provide an awesome game for little production cost.

all of his post makes me smile

and inb4 crybabies with bad connections moan about not being able to.

But... well... what about... wait when was Torchlight released? 2009? The Call of Duty manages to release a game with terrifically high production values on a yearly basis!

And yeah Mr. Carter brings up a good point. I don't care if you helped create Diablo II you can't just create the same basic game with updated graphics and sell it as something NEW and (looks at DoTA II) oh wait.

But seriously this is just another textbook case of the pot calling the kettle black.

So come down off the cross, use the wood to build a bridge, and GET OVER YOURSELF.

And give us a concrete date for Torchlight II dammit. While not as bad as these "five year cycles" you're talking about (of which I've seen none that I can remember) a three year cycle is pretty bad these days.

Believe it or not there are some countries that cannot support digital only, and some of those are large and relatively modern markets.
South Africa is such a market as the country is strangled by a monoplolising telco which is goverment protected ( many ministers have generous shares in the telco ). It has improved since I left but when I last logged on in RSA I was paying roughly 100 / month for a 512 kb dl line with a international cap set at 4 gigs... then it was strangled to sub dial up ( I aint joking, it was geniunely worse than dial up for int. access when you capped out ), but it was at the time unlimited local so guys used all dl different shite then share locally :p
RSA has a fairly large market for computing and video gaming basically having the same equipment as the UK , at a heftier price tag.

Dont forget also there is the providers habit of capping many account types, so the larger part of the market may not be able to download large titles without falling foul of the caps... I believe the US now has issues with many providers capping accounts, or subjecting them to 'fair usage policies' which would kick in after a Steam sale :p

I'm looking forward to the end of boxes and disks too. Not that it is necessarily a good thing, just that I am curious about how change will affect the market. It's time we shook things up a bit.

Less talking, more Torchlight 2 development.

BrunDeign:
But... well... what about... wait when was Torchlight released? 2009? The Call of Duty manages to release a game with terrifically high production values on a yearly basis!

And yeah Mr. Carter brings up a good point. I don't care if you helped create Diablo II you can't just create the same basic game with updated graphics and sell it as something NEW and (looks at DoTA II) oh wait.

But seriously this is just another textbook case of the pot calling the kettle black.

So come down off the cross, use the wood to build a bridge, and GET OVER YOURSELF.

And give us a concrete date for Torchlight II dammit. While not as bad as these "five year cycles" you're talking about (of which I've seen none that I can remember) a three year cycle is pretty bad these days.

3 year cycle is actually pretty standard.

The yearly cycles you mention are created by seperate teams so not really yearly. (sledgehammer, IW, treyarch).

Now before you go " but what about ubi and ass creed" while its true they don't name the sub teams, they most certainly exist.

And yes i want a tl2 release date too :(

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ASnogarD:
Believe it or not there are some countries that cannot support digital only, and some of those are large and relatively modern markets.
South Africa is such a market as the country is strangled by a monoplolising telco which is goverment protected ( many ministers have generous shares in the telco ). It has improved since I left but when I last logged on in RSA I was paying roughly 100 / month for a 512 kb dl line with a international cap set at 4 gigs... then it was strangled to sub dial up ( I aint joking, it was geniunely worse than dial up for int. access when you capped out ), but it was at the time unlimited local so guys used all dl different shite then share locally :p
RSA has a fairly large market for computing and video gaming basically having the same equipment as the UK , at a heftier price tag.

Dont forget also there is the providers habit of capping many account types, so the larger part of the market may not be able to download large titles without falling foul of the caps... I believe the US now has issues with many providers capping accounts, or subjecting them to 'fair usage policies' which would kick in after a Steam sale :p

Im not going to refute your first point because its true.

But i will refute the bandwidth cap ones. Thats a problem within the industry which needs fixing, and something like this will highlight it, we get uncapped here in Britain, i can't see why you couldn't with smaller localised ISP's out there. The internet is an ever useful thing and to not invest in the infrastructure is going to really kick america in the balls later on down the line.

Nothing we didn't already know, the triple A industry is stagnate right now.

But it's what we have, so we have to deal with it.

Baresark:
Less talking, more Torchlight 2 development.

This sentiment exactly. Anyone know when that's happening? He can gripe all he likes, as long as he's working.

CardinalPiggles:
Nothing we didn't already know, the triple A industry is stagnate right now.

But it's what we have, so we have to deal with it.

its kinda why i don't buy more then 2 or 3 games a year, sides, i still have most my old school games, so i deal with it by playing game game no one really knows how to make any more, ya know, one with some originality

Fappy:
Though I usually agree with Max I have got to say that is last statement missed the mark. I think a lot of developers/publishers forget the fact that an enormous portion of the gaming demographic don't have adequate internet access.

More and more do, and the sentiment of not having to rely on B&M retailers is strong. Mostly due to the fact that as it stands now it's additional cost and less and less returns ever since trade-in programs became so widespread among the biggest players.

Retailers have way too much power of the game distribution sadly, they pretty much decide on bonus content, on specifics of release date, on exposition they give games, they even influence the prices on digital distribution platforms. If a studio doesn't give in to their demands they will put their game on some forgotten shelf at the darkest corner of the shop where no one looks, and that's when they feel generous.

I'll miss physical copies, sure, I love collecting boxes, but these days hardly any game even has a box to begin with... DVD cases don't really count. The sad thing is small, private game shops will be hurt by it, but then again how many of those are still around with bigger chains buying out everything?

The game costs more to make = higher risk
higher risk = game developers are more careful
game developers are more careful = more of same that works, less innovation
less innovation = staring market creativity.
in a sense, he is completely right.
retailers an distributors have way too much power over gaming industry and therefore well cna do whatever they want. i have been doing things a bit backwards whne it comes to pysical copies. i been buying online, then making a dvd copy myself. (laws in our country allow us to have 1 backup copy of any copyright material we buy incase the original gets destroyed, for example a virus).

"We stifle ourselves and our customers with over-produced, 5-year development, derivative games."

Whut? I'd prefer if it was like that, but the trend now is to push out a rushed sequel every year or two.

I completely agree with his last statement though. Retailers are what pushed big, predatory publishers to the top, because it was hard getting your games shelved otherwise, even if you were Richard Garriott sitting on Ultima VII and Wing Commander.

Thankfully with the rise of digital distribution, good developers can take our money directly, 70-100% of it, instead of the 30-40% they get from retail.

Grey Carter:
It does seem a bit rich for Schaefer to criticize "derivative" games, given that Runic Games' only game thus far has been Torchlight, a game that could be described, if you were feeling spiteful, as Diablo 2 with a pet dog.

Why would I do that, when I can call it "FATE with guns"?

BECAUSE THAT'S A FLAWLESS DESCRIPTION.

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I mean, they recycled some of the art, for heavens' sakes, and the fishing/gemsmithing/format/etc is all identical to FATE.

Fappy:
Though I usually agree with Max I have got to say that is last statement missed the mark. I think a lot of developers/publishers forget the fact that an enormous portion of the gaming demographic don't have adequate internet access.

Except you miss the part where he says

...but I look forward to the end of boxes and disks

He's not saying it should happen now. The only way for boxes and disks to be completely outmoded would be by everyone having access to digital distribution. Then boxes and disks would be completely unnecessary. All publishers would love for that day to occur as it would mean more profits for them.

Torchlight has my full support since it is not taking the way of madness that more AAA publishers like Blizzard are taking in that they sell you a box copy, but then require 24/7 online connection to play their game in single-player.
"But it's not DRM," Blizzard says. "Bullshit," I says. If players really want to be able to share their characters online, then they will either play multiplayer or take the time between sessions to go on and update their online profile. Maintaining an always-on link handicaps the players and makes them vulnerable to having zero access to their entire game when the servers go down.
And they will go down. All it will take is one hiccup in the system, a dilinquent IT employee, a disgruntled employee or customer, or someone who feels they are the next Lulzsec.
And the customer can do nothing but bide their time, since Blizzard already got their money for the game. Games like Diablo 3 aren't subscription based so you can't just end your subscription because of crappy online service from the company. Go ahead and quit playing Diablo 3 because you got screwed, Blizzard won't care. If they suckered you into buying this game, they know they will sucker you into the next. It's the same with Ubisoft. People got screwed playing Assassin's Creed Revelations because Ubi's servers went down. And yet people are oh so excited for AssCreed 3.
Quit being lemmings, people. There are still plenty of good alternatives out there than becoming another cog in the machine. You have no one else to blame but yourself if you let yourself get suckered into being stuck in an online trap. The companies may sound sympathetic, but in the end they don't care. Doesn't matter, got paid.

Grey Carter:

"I'll get in trouble for this, but I look forward to the end of boxes and disks," he said. "Kill them with fire for all I care. The retail market has historically starved developers and narrowed the market for available games."

Think this guy needs to take a look at the roots of PC gaming when people were self publishing using home-printed floppy discs and manuals sold in plastic bags. Not to mention the "boxes and disks" model is responsible for getting the industry as far as it is.

samsonguy920:
Quit being lemmings, people. There are still plenty of good alternatives out there than becoming another cog in the machine.

C'mon man! Don't be a lemming! You're PEOPLE not SHEEPle!
*rumble rumble rumble*
Oh god, what's that?

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Sylveria:

Grey Carter:
"I'll get in trouble for this, but I look forward to the end of boxes and disks," he said. "Kill them with fire for all I care. The retail market has historically starved developers and narrowed the market for available games."

Think this guy needs to take a look at the roots of PC gaming when people were self publishing using home-printed floppy discs and manuals sold in plastic bags. Not to mention the "boxes and disks" model is responsible for getting the industry as far as it is.

Yes, but thinking like this results in sacred cows. And as pretty as they are, sometimes sacred cows must be sacrificed.

Has the "boxes and disks" model helped get the games industry to this point? Yes. But now it's starting to strain on the industry, and is keeping it from seeing its full potential.

People used to self-publish with self-made floppy discs and manuals, and that was great. But do you propose that we go back to floppy discs? No, it seems that your point is that you want to bring people back to how things were, to when indie developers worked out of their garages and made some pretty good games. Thing is, they're doing that right now. And you know how these people are doing it? Online. Using digital distribution.

I guess thats why we see so little innovative indie titles.

...

bahumat42:

BrunDeign:
But... well... what about... wait when was Torchlight released? 2009? The Call of Duty manages to release a game with terrifically high production values on a yearly basis!

And yeah Mr. Carter brings up a good point. I don't care if you helped create Diablo II you can't just create the same basic game with updated graphics and sell it as something NEW and (looks at DoTA II) oh wait.

But seriously this is just another textbook case of the pot calling the kettle black.

So come down off the cross, use the wood to build a bridge, and GET OVER YOURSELF.

And give us a concrete date for Torchlight II dammit. While not as bad as these "five year cycles" you're talking about (of which I've seen none that I can remember) a three year cycle is pretty bad these days.

3 year cycle is actually pretty standard.

The yearly cycles you mention are created by seperate teams so not really yearly. (sledgehammer, IW, treyarch).

Now before you go " but what about ubi and ass creed" while its true they don't name the sub teams, they most certainly exist.

And yes i want a tl2 release date too :(

They do mention every single sub-team in AC:R. The intro is pretty much just filled with
"Ubisoft Montreal
Ubisoft Shanghai
Ubisoft Singapore
Ubisoft [insertanothercityhere]"

Dr Jones:

bahumat42:

BrunDeign:
But... well... what about... wait when was Torchlight released? 2009? The Call of Duty manages to release a game with terrifically high production values on a yearly basis!

And yeah Mr. Carter brings up a good point. I don't care if you helped create Diablo II you can't just create the same basic game with updated graphics and sell it as something NEW and (looks at DoTA II) oh wait.

But seriously this is just another textbook case of the pot calling the kettle black.

So come down off the cross, use the wood to build a bridge, and GET OVER YOURSELF.

And give us a concrete date for Torchlight II dammit. While not as bad as these "five year cycles" you're talking about (of which I've seen none that I can remember) a three year cycle is pretty bad these days.

3 year cycle is actually pretty standard.

The yearly cycles you mention are created by seperate teams so not really yearly. (sledgehammer, IW, treyarch).

Now before you go " but what about ubi and ass creed" while its true they don't name the sub teams, they most certainly exist.

And yes i want a tl2 release date too :(

They do mention every single sub-team in AC:R. The intro is pretty much just filled with
"Ubisoft Montreal
Ubisoft Shanghai
Ubisoft Singapore
Ubisoft [insertanothercityhere]"

il take that humble pie, to be fair i dont often pay attention to all that xD

Grey Carter:

"I'll get in trouble for this, but I look forward to the end of boxes and disks," he said. "Kill them with fire for all I care. The retail market has historically starved developers and narrowed the market for available games."

Actually I much prefer having a physical disc than only a digital download. You only need your hard drive die on you once to learn that lesson be it pc or console. Plus I like having a physical games collection.

In the real world, if a fruit bearing plant was latched onto by a vine that grew to be far bigger than the plant, consumed several other plants and gradually starved the original plant, only an idiot would point to the birds who eat the fruit and say 'This is all your fault.'

In the gaming industry, however, people seem to be blind to the fricking obvious.

Lol Nope. AAA games are not stifling the industry, as evidenced by the sheer overwhelming number of samey games you can find that are "Indie" or low budget. Honestly though, what exactly is "Innovation"? I'd say that COD4 Innovated the Multiplayer FPS world and that was a AAA game, I'd also say WoW Innovated in the MMO space, but that wasn't an indie game. "Innovation", whatever the hell that is, can come from anywhere.

It's also some pretty rich shit this guy is flinging at the wall considering just how similar every single piece of work this guy has ever created is, Whats that? You're going to make another game about Demons and Magic? Probably a dungeon crawler? Probably in an Isometric view? Probably an ARPG? What innovation! We certainly don't have any games like that.

oh here we go....

AAA games stifling the industry? going from the line-up last year Ive got no problem with AAA games

and seriously...I can't game without physical copies..not untill internet gets sorted out

bahumat42:
all of his post makes me smile

and inb4 crybabies with bad connections moan about not being able to.

calling people names doesnt adress any issues

Vault101:
oh here we go....

AAA games stifling the industry? going from the line-up last year Ive got no problem with AAA games

and seriously...I can't game without physical copies..not untill internet gets sorted out

bahumat42:
all of his post makes me smile

and inb4 crybabies with bad connections moan about not being able to.

calling people names doesnt adress any issues

If a connection issue is a big enough issue that it warrants whining about when it comes to these kinds of things, than it warrants you doing your best to remedy it. And if your current government is ignoring the need for spending in this area, elect one which will.

I see no reason that the world should suffer because america can't prioritise its spending properly.

bahumat42:
snip.

mabye I just dont want one more bullshit hoop to jump through before I can play a game

mabye digital is inevitable....but here in my country the internet is pretty bad...the downloads caps are downright insulting, ok sure, if I need too one day perhaps Ill get a better plan (internet is expensive) but I still dont want to wait 5 fucking hours to download a godamn game

"whining" implys its a non-issue...for alot of people it isnt

bahumat42:
if your current government is ignoring the need for spending in this area, elect one which will.

That's your reply to 'I can't play these kids of games right now because of a fundamentally broken social system that extends my whole nation'?

You just came back at a social dilemma of grand scale with "Get new ones".

Vault101:

bahumat42:
snip.

mabye I just dont want one more bullshit hoop to jump through before I can play a game

mabye digital is inevitable....but here in my country the internet is pretty bad...the downloads caps are downright insulting, ok sure, if I need too one day perhaps Ill get a better plan (internet is expensive) but I still dont want to wait 5 fucking hours to download a godamn game

"whining" implys its a non-issue...for alot of people it isnt

It should be a non-issue, usage caps and bad speeds are something that should be taken up with the isps and the governments.

And in reality 5 hours doesn't mean anything if you can download all that before the release date and get to play it as soon as the magic bell chooses to release the title in your province.

Granted it sucks if you have a bad connection, but the crux of my argument is thats a problem which needs more addressing rather than people taking the path of least resistance.

Im not trying to make light of peoples plight, more that people shouldn't just roll over for it. Internet connections have been vital to online gaming since its outlet, having downloads be a part of that is just extending the premise that internet connectivity is now a factor in where you choose to live. Atleast if you want to play games without lagging all over the place.

Its just an inescapable part of our hobby. But given that both music and increasingly film/tv are turning to digital distribution, the infrastructure of many places needs to be improved and it won't be done if people don't speak up.

Thats a bit rambly and slightly disjointed. But im slightly drunk. So sorry ^^

In summary whine at your ISP's not your content providers. Because their the ones in the wrong.

Silenttalker22:

bahumat42:
if your current government is ignoring the need for spending in this area, elect one which will.

That's your reply to 'I can't play these kids of games right now because of a fundamentally broken social system that extends my whole nation'?

You just came back at a social dilemma of grand scale with "Get new ones".

Well you should, it might seem simplistic but its an expenditure many countries seem happy enough to make, its important to economic growth and employment in new industries. The fact it helps the everyday man is just gravy.

I'd be saying that too, if I were releasing my diablo clone the same year Diablo III and Borderlands 2 came out.

Kahunaburger:
I'd be saying that too, if I were releasing my diablo clone the same year Diablo III and Borderlands 2 came out.

Exept that Torchlight is created by the same guy that created Diablo, and Diablo 3 is the real clone by another team.

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