Just Cause Dev: Losing AAA Might Not Be All That Bad

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Just Cause Dev: Losing AAA Might Not Be All That Bad

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"We don't need 40 first-person shooters," says Avalanche Studios' creative director.

Things aren't looking good for AAA development. Costs are rising, studios are closing and even the most monolithic publishers seem to be acutely aware of the looming spectre of bankruptcy. While the unlikely concept of some kind of upper industry crash may seem apocalyptic to some, particularly those whose jobs are on the line, others see it as a positive, if not outright necessary, chance for the industry to evolve. Like Avalanche Studios' creative director, Stefan Ljungqvist, for example.

"I don't think big-budget games are going away. There's going to be less of them," he told Gamasutra. "But that's a good thing, because maybe we don't need forty first-person shooters. I don't want to play them all, but maybe we need one, two or three."

To be fair, Avalanche hasn't exactly been hitting the creativity drum with all its strength. Of the studio's four games, two are installments in the open-world Just Cause series, one is a free-to-play hunting game and the other is a top-down, twin-stick shooter. The studio has three games in the pipeline; One is another open-world game (which many assume to be Just Cause 3 co-developed with Square Enix. The other two are unnamed titles based on unidentified comic book and movie licenses.

"What I like now is that there are more opportunities to be creative," he continued. "Maybe over the course of the past five years, developers have pitched creative or more artistic games, but publishers had been more careful of betting a lot on those games, because they're associated with some risk. But maybe now they can [take more risks] because they need to be more unique in the marketplace."

Source: Gamasutra

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Grey Carter:

Thinks aren't looking good for AAA development.

Say wha, I thing thats a spelling mistake Grey.

Avalanche may not be banging the creativity drum in certain respects, true. However they need a meme picture thingy that says "We made Just Cause 2 - your game is invalid." and then to distribute it to the folks responsible for those forty first person shooters.

The AAA game mentality killed the middle game. The business method is unstable, and promotes an arms race of "who's sold more" that sets unrealistic expectations and a homogenized and fear based product.

Something everyone has been saying for a while from Ubisoft to the Firefall guys.

Losing the AAA is a good thing, we need more middle games and actually controlled budgets. Not huge, runaway budgets that force fearful DRM and insane cost inflation to customers.

With the amazing quality of indie games in the last 3 years, I can safely say that I wouldn't miss AAA games if something were to happen to them.

With things like Steam, XBLA and PSN its weird that they dont try to make the 15$/20$ dollar game from time to time. Well... Avalanche here did one and it was a very cool one indeed. Just grab your AAA game tech and do a cheap low budget game with it.

Yeah! Third person shooters are where it's at!

josemlopes:
With things like Steam, XBLA and PSN its weird that they dont try to make the 15$/20$ dollar game from time to time. Well... Avalanche here did one and it was a very cool one indeed. Just grab your AAA game tech and do a cheap low budget game with it.

But we need teh best graphics to stay competitive!

The best thing about an AAA industry crash would be the hundreds of millions of dollars that wouldn't be going to advertising and administrative overhead. I'm pretty sure that there is more money being spent there than on actual game development at this point.

DVS BSTrD:
Yeah! Third person shooters are where it's at!

josemlopes:
With things like Steam, XBLA and PSN its weird that they dont try to make the 15$/20$ dollar game from time to time. Well... Avalanche here did one and it was a very cool one indeed. Just grab your AAA game tech and do a cheap low budget game with it.

But we need teh best graphics to stay competitive!

I know that you are kidding but that isnt even an issue here


Looks good, right?

Its the same engine they used previously with Just Cause 2.

Even the guys that did Section 8 did it right later on with Prejudice


I think they only tweaked the visuals a bit and added 3 new maps and a horde mode, the rest is all from the previous game.

"But that's a good thing, because maybe we don't need forty first-person shooters. I don't want to play them all, but maybe we need one, two or three."

It's a little naive to think that FPS are going away with the AAA industry.

DVS BSTrD:
But we need teh best graphics to stay competitive!

How else will we justify our video cards with slightly higher numbers?

There are some that are expecting or wanting another game industry crash like we had in the 80's. I just don't see this happening but I honestly believe that what we're witnessing is a bubble burst for the entire industry. I hate bloated budgets and short sighted decisions made by upper management types that contribute to this. But I equally hate seeing so many developers and employees lose their jobs in an already difficult job market.

Ljungqvist has the right attitude. We really don't need so many over budgeted FPSs and AAA titles anyway. I believe smaller budgets with less publisher interference is better for creativity. I sense a coming paradigm shift, however temporary, where we will have mainly only two choices of game, a smaller developer indie type game or a super bloated AAA game from EA/Activision/Ubisoft with barely any choices in between.

"We don't need 40 first-person shooters," says Avalanche Studios' creative director.

I for one welcome our indie game developer overlords.

Just Cause 2 is incredibly creative. How many other games let you tether people to compressed gas tanks, then shoot the tanks so that they fly up into the air, dragging the hapless victim with them? How many games let you do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLcQ9PWoZdA

Or this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJfvgUnAJdU

Or ALL THE OTHER CRAZY STUFF YOU CAN DO

I think everyone but the corporate heads of the big publishers saw this coming some time ago. The AAA industry was completely unsustainable as a primary business model. Not only was it unsustainable for the developers to produce, it was unsustainable for the market to purchase. It would be one thing if there were only ever 1-2 triple-A titles begin released in a year. However, when you have everyone vying to release a triple-A calibre game and the market flooded with 5-10 $60+ (when you add DLC) games, it becomes an impossible situation. People just don't have the time or money for so many BIG games at that rate. Not to mention the developers trying to crank out such a large game in the same amount of time as one would do a much smaller game and do that repeatedly, one can only see the whole thing eventually running off the rails.

I agree that triple-A titles should not go away entirely; however, there needs to be a severe scaling back on the number released in a given period of time. In my opinion, there needs to be a more diversified mix of small, medium, and large games. I think this would give gamers time to recover between major release purchases and developers/publishers some income padding in case the triple-A game fails to sale in sufficient quantities to profit.

Why do we need 40 first person shooters? Just 'cause.

The publishers are just suits. They aren't interested in making games, only money that can keep the shareholders happy.

The people who control the industry aren't the artists anymore, and that's what needs to change. The tools and the artists will always be there, and the desire to make games isn't dependent on executives. The death of the monster publishers needs to happen.

CardinalPiggles:
Why do we need 40 first person shooters? Just 'cause.

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Nowhere Man:
There are some that are expecting or wanting another game industry crash like we had in the 80's. I just don't see this happening but I honestly believe that what we're witnessing is a bubble burst for the entire industry. I hate bloated budgets and short sighted decisions made by upper management types that contribute to this. But I equally hate seeing so many developers and employees lose their jobs in an already difficult job market.

Ljungqvist has the right attitude. We really don't need so many over budgeted FPSs and AAA titles anyway. I believe smaller budgets with less publisher interference is better for creativity. I sense a coming paradigm shift, however temporary, where we will have mainly only two choices of game, a smaller developer indie type game or a super bloated AAA game from EA/Activision/Ubisoft with barely any choices in between.

In all honesty, I don't think the industry as a whole will crash. However, I will say that numerous parts of the AAA market are going to have to change if they don't want to fall apart and take some seriously big hits. Not all major AAA devs / publishers are rolling unsustainable business models, but some are and they will not be able to avoid a "bubble burst" as you put it if they continue to stick to their current business models (except for Madden and FIFA, do to their monopoly-like status and targeting the single biggest fanbase in the world that'll actually play video games - sports fans).

What's going to happen is that the console side of the market will start having to look like the PC side of the market, due to two main factors.

First up is squeezing out used game resales, which is going to reduce launch price sales numbers to around the level that preorders are at now, plus a couple of percentage points. A lot of sales that are made at full launch price are made with the potential promise of a price offset after being traded back in. I'm guessing that the preorder/deluxe bonus goodie edition sales volume is about the right benchmark for launch price sales in a no trade-in market. After that, the initial round of price drops is going to have to happen much sooner.

The second factor is the upcoming rise of the miniconsole/media center boxes, in the guise of Gamestick, Ouya, Roku, and AppleTV, where the barrier to entry for developers is as low as it is for PC's. The consoles have gotten better about this with their download marketplaces, but really, they're just a scratch compared to what's available from the app stores and in the PC market.

As an aside, I long ago thought Sony should have chopped the screen and the controls out of the PSP 2000/3000, replaced them with an a/v cable (which they already had in place), and a wireless controller, to make a consolized version of the PSP, which already had strong streaming media support, as well as skype, and support for a camera, and they could have been an industry leader in the miniconsole/media center space.

Y'know what Avalanche, all you have to do is make Just Cause 3 with some new additions to the hookshots, perhaps something like a swinging mechanic al-la Spiderman 2, new weapons, vehicles, and if possible make it so everything in the game is destructible. That happens, you will have absolutely no problems selling the game and making a name for yourself.

Vausch:
Y'know what Avalanche, all you have to do is make Just Cause 3 with some new additions to the hookshots, perhaps something like a swinging mechanic al-la Spiderman 2, new weapons, vehicles, and if possible make it so everything in the game is destructible. That happens, you will have absolutely no problems selling the game and making a name for yourself.

...implying they haven't already made a name for themselves. With GTA IV's fall from grace, it was neck and neck between Just Cause 2 and Saint's Row for 'king of the sandbox' title. Now that Saint's is slipping it looks like Avalanche is far and away the top of the sandbox heap.

Though I'll bet Far Cry 4 will have something to say about that if and when it arrives...

Squilookle:

Vausch:
Y'know what Avalanche, all you have to do is make Just Cause 3 with some new additions to the hookshots, perhaps something like a swinging mechanic al-la Spiderman 2, new weapons, vehicles, and if possible make it so everything in the game is destructible. That happens, you will have absolutely no problems selling the game and making a name for yourself.

...implying they haven't already made a name for themselves. With GTA IV's fall from grace, it was neck and neck between Just Cause 2 and Saint's Row for 'king of the sandbox' title. Now that Saint's is slipping it looks like Avalanche is far and away the top of the sandbox heap.

Though I'll bet Far Cry 4 will have something to say about that if and when it arrives...

Unintentional there XD I love Avalanche, I mean MORE of a name.

Considering Far Cry 3 has been a pretty big success story odds are 4 is in the bag if they don't decide to go with new IP.

That's kinda stupid. If we take consoles as the main market for games, than it means the more games there are, the more consoles get sold, which means the more games will get made.

Nobody will buy a console if they only get to chose between 3 games a year (if they're a shooter fan, which is pretty much everyone).

The Plunk:
With the amazing quality of indie games in the last 3 years, I can safely say that I wouldn't miss AAA games if something were to happen to them.

Well good for you.

Without AAA gaming, I wouldn't have half of the games from this generation that I love. No Fallout 3, No Oblivion or Skyrim, no Uncharted, or inFamous, The Last of Us (hypothetically, it's not out yet but looks damn good), Dead Space 1, Hitman, Assassin's Creed 2, GTA IV, Dishonored, etc. etc.

Indie titles are great, I own a buttload of them on both my PC and ps3. But indie titles can't scratch every itch, and a gaming industry with only indie titles doesn't sound like something I want any part of.

Seriously, graphics don't make the game, but seeing everything (not literally, but you have to admit there are an awful lot of them) pasted with "retro 16-bit graphics" is a joke.

There needs to be a better tiered system for these publishers. Ranging from AAA to A to B titles, and the indies can fill in the space between.

FloodOne:

The Plunk:
With the amazing quality of indie games in the last 3 years, I can safely say that I wouldn't miss AAA games if something were to happen to them.

Well good for you.

Without AAA gaming, I wouldn't have half of the games from this generation that I love. No Fallout 3, No Oblivion or Skyrim, no Uncharted, or inFamous, The Last of Us (hypothetically, it's not out yet but looks damn good), Dead Space 1, Hitman, Assassin's Creed 2, GTA IV, Dishonored, etc. etc.

Indie titles are great, I own a buttload of them on both my PC and ps3. But indie titles can't scratch every itch, and a gaming industry with only indie titles doesn't sound like something I want any part of.

Seriously, graphics don't make the game, but seeing everything (not literally, but you have to admit there are an awful lot of them) pasted with "retro 16-bit graphics" is a joke.

There needs to be a better tiered system for these publishers. Ranging from AAA to A to B titles, and the indies can fill in the space between.

Middle games.

Fallout 1 was a middle game. Thief (which dishonored was based on) was a middle game. Hitman USED to be a middle game, and the BEST installment of the series (blood money) was a middle game. In fact, 90% of the famous console titles were middle games. Most of the AAA games now were influenced by middle games.

AAA will die, and middle games come back. Hell, the original reason middle games died out was because they couldn't beat the graphics of AAA games, which is what gamers wanted back then.

Now AAA are kept around solely because of tradition. The graphics craze came and died with this generation because its too expensive. The games will be cheaper and more bold too with smaller budgets.

So you would actually get MORE from a middle game 1990s-esque market than you would lose now.

Jiefu:
Just Cause 2 is incredibly creative. How many other games let you tether people to compressed gas tanks, then shoot the tanks so that they fly up into the air, dragging the hapless victim with them? How many games let you do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLcQ9PWoZdA

Or this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJfvgUnAJdU

Or ALL THE OTHER CRAZY STUFF YOU CAN DO

Or This:


Or This:

Or This:

Seriously! I can play the game until I am completely burnt out! Then come back 4 months later as if it were fresh, burn myself out, download 50+ mods, enjoy all over again!

Sgt. Sykes:
That's kinda stupid. If we take consoles as the main market for games, than it means the more games there are, the more consoles get sold, which means the more games will get made.

Nobody will buy a console if they only get to chose between 3 games a year (if they're a shooter fan, which is pretty much everyone).

I don't think he means less games, just less triple-A games. So instead of dozens of monstrously budgeted games all fighting to earn their money back, of which only 20% probably will, we'll have 2 or 3 dozen mediumly budgeted games that have more room to maneuver without the looming risk of losing millions of dollars.

Grey Carter:
The studio has three games in the pipeline; One is another open-world game (which many assume to be Just Cause 3) co-developed with Square Enix. The other two are unnamed titles based on unidentified comic book and movie licenses.

"What I like now is that there are more opportunities to be creative,"

Oh, so he's making three games (almost certainly) based on existing intellectual properties, but he is just desperate to get some more creativtity in his industry? Makes a lot of sense.

Somehow I don't think his current batch is going be very creative, but as long as it makes him money I doubt he's going to be very sorry about that. :\

Zachary Amaranth:
How else will we justify our video cards with slightly higher numbers?

BItcoin farming monsters?

in the times where there is AAA or indie only, we need soem AAA to tone down to BBB. or well, there are some BBB, made by awful peopel for awful people.

More games where I don't have to slaughter 100 men before I even get started with the Prologue, please.

I really dig the "Murder Optional" feature in some games, where you even get rewarded with dialogue scenes, secrets, and other goodies if you have the patience or skill. Original Thief-style...

To me, AAA isn't "First Person Shooter".. AAA is the part of the industry where every one of their games is a slaughter-fest, just mindless insanity. Stupidly simple mechanics where you just hover an icon over simulated meat-bodies and blow them up for 8 hours.

I'm cool with it now and then of course, but calm down guys.. seriously. Seriously.

Zachary Amaranth:

DVS BSTrD:
But we need teh best graphics to stay competitive!

How else will we justify our video cards with slightly higher numbers?

The extreme amounts of computer hardware research paid for by our graphics card purchases allowed for innovations and large increases in overall computing power. Computing power which has revolutionized the way research is done in medicine, astronomy, engineering, basically name any science field.

He's right. We don't need 40 FPS titles. For constant FPS gaming we have more than enough. I don't even know why are modern military shooters still selling. There is absolutely no reason to buy a new CoD every year. CoD 4 is still the best one.

What we don't have is more games like The Witcher or Mass Effect. Character and story driven RPG's. And the fact that EA wants to make Mass Effect into some kind of Gears of War clone is pissing me off. They have this huge hole in the market that no one is trying to fill, and instead of grabbing that opportunity to take that market all for themselves, they're trying to compete with games that exist in an already over-saturated market. This is why Ubisoft is so successful with Assassin's Creed. No one does what they do so that part of the market is theirs. They are the only ones who can scratch that itch. They're not even trying to compete for the MMO and FPS market. And that's smart.

I'd like to know just where he gets his 40 FPS titles. There aren't all that many FPS releases in a year, really. Especially not AAA ones. Yeah we've got the annual CoD update, and something from EA that may or may not be terrible. But beyond those two you don't see anywhere near 40 FPS games getting released within a year, probably not even half that amount. But it seems to be a popular misconception that every other AAA release is an FPS.

It also would be flagrant lie to insinuate that there is no creativity left in the AAA industry and that all the games coming out are generic. Sure a lot of them are, but you also get your fair shake of genuinely enjoyable AAAs in your average year.

Mycroft Holmes:

Zachary Amaranth:

DVS BSTrD:
But we need teh best graphics to stay competitive!

How else will we justify our video cards with slightly higher numbers?

The extreme amounts of computer hardware research paid for by our graphics card purchases allowed for innovations and large increases in overall computing power. Computing power which has revolutionized the way research is done in medicine, astronomy, engineering, basically name any science field.

That seems like a great thing that could be done without the ridiculous graphics card portion. I'd gladly write a check to these people for the price of a graphics card to get the same results.

Adam Jensen:
He's right. We don't need 40 FPS titles. For constant FPS gaming we have more than enough. I don't even know why are modern military shooters still selling. There is absolutely no reason to buy a new CoD every year. CoD 4 is still the best one.

What we don't have is more games like The Witcher or Mass Effect. Character and story driven RPG's. And the fact that EA wants to make Mass Effect into some kind of Gears of War clone is pissing me off. They have this huge hole in the market that no one is trying to fill, and instead of grabbing that opportunity to take that market all for themselves, they're trying to compete with games that exist in an already over-saturated market. This is why Ubisoft is so successful with Assassin's Creed. No one does what they do so that part of the market is theirs. They are the only ones who can scratch that itch. They're not even trying to compete for the MMO and FPS market. And that's smart.

Why are they selling? Social bro gamers. The gamers that buy only 2 or 3 games a year. 2 of those being the new Madden and CoD.

Ubisoft is successful with AC for now, but it won't be for long. Its got several studios running to pump out a new AC game every year. AC3 was the same tired concept with the only silver lining being the ship combat, so now there's an AC pirate game coming out. So Ubisoft rides that until the wheels fall off, then what?

wow, the first AAA devs that dont talk AA/ka ka.

DVS BSTrD:
But we need teh best graphics to stay competitive!

graphics? GRAPHICS!!!!!

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