Ubisoft: Triple-A Costs Will "Stifle" Innovation

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Ubisoft: Triple-A Costs Will "Stifle" Innovation

Ubisoft Toronto's Jade Raymond believes triple-A development costs will limit videogames if new approaches to limit costs aren't explored.

With some of the talk that's come out of Ubisoft recently it'd be hard to blame gamers for viewing the company as one committed to working inside current industry's business models, many of which emphasize sequels and increasingly expensive triple-A games. After all, it is the publisher that openly declared its intention to release annual sequels to its prominent properties while also halting investment in anything it can't turn into a long running franchise. That being the case, the current state of the industry isn't something everyone inside the company is committed too. Going forward, some see change as a necessity.

Speaking recently on the subject of big-budget titles, Ubisoft Toronto head Jade Raymond expressed concerns that the rising costs of triple-A development could stifle innovation. "I think it's hard to say [there's no innovation] when you see games like Watch Dogs and The Division being announced, which I think are big triple-As and I think are innovating," said Raymond. "I think the big question to me, as the expectations of these big triple-As keep on growing and the consoles become more powerful and teams get bigger, is how do we keep the costs in line?" According to Raymond the industry is growing closer and closer to a future where the sheer investment required to make a triple-A title will severely limit what publishers are willing to make. "That's for sure one of the things that is going to stifle innovation eventually. Anytime you want to make a big triple-A, you're spending, let's say $100 million, you're not going to want to take a chance."

The key to combating this trend is, in her opinion, multifaceted. At the most basic level studios and publishers need to "find more ways to make money" while also lessening the costs of development. "I think we have to invest in tools to make people more efficient, to perhaps make ten times the amount of content that we were making before with the same amount of effort," she said. Even then, she believes that "the industry is changing" and that the future might require embracing other growing trends like free-to-play and micro-transactions to help engage gamers and increase revenues. "You have to be careful how you do it though," she added, warning against the haphazard integration of these features which, in turn, could drive away the same customers the company wants to attract.

Source: Digital Spy

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Well you guys could switch over entirely to Wii-U games for a start.

Holy carp, Ubisoft! You've gone from my "Worst Game Producers Evar" to "One of the Betters" in, like, four months.

Now, take a few cues from CD Projekt, who made The Witcher (2? I think it was the second one) for $8 million.

And I still dont completely get it why they waste so much money?
It is not on graphics. Nor on technology. Games like Metro Last Light and STALKER achieve things in their visuals/AI/tech that overshadow almost everything else. And they were relatively cheaper to make.
It is due to marketing and hollywood voice actors, optimization for limited hardware and high-fidelity animations. Cut at least 2 of those and find a way around the other two and THEN make big AAA games. Costs should drop by a lot.
Though creating more ways to make money, as long as that also helps the game's community and longevity (especially in a long-term plan) will be welcome.

why it cost you so much money to make game for shitty low spec consoles ?*

image

ah you want to make as much money as absolutely possible...

here's a wild idea: make stuff for less money.

i mean Hollywood could no doubt spend a billion on a movie...but they don't because that would be STUPID.

so what are you spending money you can't make back and attempting to shift the blame from yourselves ?...

ah because you want make as much money as absolutely possible...

gotcha...

*seriously i didn't see CD Projekt RED begging for 100 mil before making the Witcher 2...wanna explain that little fact ? hmmm ? no, i didn't think so...same with other new companies that still seem to be finding ways to enter the market and make great games without spending 100s of millions.

i read "the trades" and things like developer lectures, i've coded and modded, i know the real kinds of numbers both of people and money that gets spent on a game and i know why you are spinning us this line that you need millions and millions because "oh dear the tech keeps advancing ;'(" (SO DO THE TOOLS) and you're trying to convince the little dears if they don't empty their wallets wide to the huge publishers who are the only people who can make good (ie i assume "AAA") games somehow we'll kill the gaming industry but i'm ain't buying what you're shovelling.

adapt or die.

let the market decide what's needed and quit trying to convince people (and yourself) you can dictate to it and/or control it through manipulative and lying PR and marketing (which btw is also what you people spend most of the budget of games on).

so what if we don't get "AAA"s ? (i don't even really know what that is outside it being a buzzword) i bet "AA"s or even just "A"s will probably will be indistinguishable.

there will never be a day this market is not served.

Well heres an idea, start trimming the fat like celebrity voice overs. Theres plenty of voice actors that would gladly do the work a lot cheaper. Or how about all games do not have to be triple AAA. Why not just make an AA game and if interest warrants a big budget then let it have it.

Also Miss Raymond, you are tasty.

Sleekit:
why it cost you so much money to make game for shitty low spec consoles ?

i mean Hollywood could no doubt spend a billion on a movie...but they don't because that would be STUPID.

so what are you spending money you can't make back and attempting to shift the blame form yourselves ?...

ah because you want make as much money as absolutely possible...

gotcha...

Developing for high end hardware is easier than for low end. Optimization is VERY expensive. And usually there are ways to make use of newer technology in order to cheapen and easen your way in development. Also it wont limit the artists and level designers as much as low end harware, which can again make costs rise up. The lowering of costs from knowing the consoles hardware is a reality, but the other things are usually more important for the costs :( ... though often overlooked.

Dont waste money. Dont pay for celeb voices you dont need. Dont waste money on stuff that isnt important to the core game. Dont add a multiplayer element to a game that doesnt need it (looking at you Tomb Raider). If you want to save money then pay for another companies game engine.

Thing is ive never connected innovation with AAA titles. The real innovation is done by developers with low budgets and create an experience that sells the game better than graphics can. AAA is just games made for the sake of making money, like Cod and MW games. They dont innovate, they remake the previous game every year with a few addition, like every sports game out their. Innovation comes when you have limited budget and have to make the hard choices on what to spend it on. You cant innovate when you have a huge budget because then you end up like Fable 3 - where you change things for the sake of it without fixing the things that needed fixing.

So maybe you can save on money by not seemingly start and stop the sequel most wanted by your fans.
Or maybe just not make those teasers for a game you don't plan on ever finishing.

No, I'm not bitter about BG&E2. not at all.

StewShearer:
The key to combating this trend is, in her opinion, multifaceted. At the most basic level studios and publishers need to "find more ways to make money"...

i.e. screw the consumer. I think I've heard this song before.

The biggest problem are the publishers that are holding back the creative freedom of their development teams because they don't want to risk anything. They want to rely on old and proven instead. As long as Ubisoft keeps making new things like Blood Dragon and Watch Dogs, they have nothing to fear. I've seen the gameplay video of The Crew and I was blown away despite my lack of interest in racing games. Keep doing things like that and you'll be fine.

All i read was blah blah blah publishers/greed killed off innovation/gaming.

Also wont only making games that will be remade for 10 years till nothing is left but a mushy horse pulp that was once a game now a terrible franchise also kill off innovation?

Ok now i actually have read it where the hell is the innovation in watchdogs? And no mention that the best solution might be to spend less?

Everyone seems to quote CD Projekt as a good example of cost-effectiveness. Which is especially true when the country they work in has near zilch labour laws. So all AAA companies should move to Poland! Ya, that makes sense.

On a sidenote with much less sarcasm, she is really, really pretty. And apparently she thinks a lot. That's coming from her quotes. She says "I think" often. Sheesh, did I have to explain it?

In other news the Sun will rise, and the sky is blue. Back to you dave.

solution: less bloated budgets and more medium sized AAA projects will give publishers more money and us more pleasure. The only downside is that this requires innovation, a part publishers haven't felt good about in many years.

rasputin0009:
Everyone seems to quote CD Projekt as a good example of cost-effectiveness. Which is especially true when the country they work in has near zilch labour laws. So all AAA companies should move to Poland! Ya, that makes sense.

you think CD Projekt is the only one ? there are plenty of small scale developers who can still turn out quality games that aren't spinning this "make me as rich as possible or gaming will die!" line. CD Projekt just happens to be a very good example.

and the idea that the company exists there because its a sweat shop of some kind is a joke. for one thing Poland is a full member of the EU and has one of the best performing economies in it atm and you can be damn sure as a full EU member (and Schengen) state it has "labour laws".

serious go read at least the first couple of paragraphs of this and stop living with a cold war view of the country. turns out the Poles were/are bloody keen to make money and enjoy life after decades of hardline communism.. : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Poland

Jade Raymond has now become Mr.Pachter - captain obvious. Quick! someone give her a crystal ball.

Also Dark souls was made on a shoestring and that is my game of this gen 100% quality.

Maybe you should start by not having each and every last person on however many various teams you have work on every bloody game.

Would cut down on the ridiculously long and boring credit sequences too.

ciasteczkowyp:
solution: less bloated budgets and more medium sized AAA projects will give publishers more money and us more pleasure. The only downside is that this requires innovation, a part publishers haven't felt good about in many years.

That and the fact that developers would have to focus on actual design over just playing smoke and mirrors. Good game design is HARD as there are no tricks to getting there. Having to do more with less is something that scares most devs because that would expose most of them as the mediocre hacks that they are.

Charcharo:
Developing for high end hardware is easier than for low end. Optimization is VERY expensive. And usually there are ways to make use of newer technology in order to cheapen and easen your way in development. Also it wont limit the artists and level designers as much as low end harware, which can again make costs rise up. The lowering of costs from knowing the consoles hardware is a reality, but the other things are usually more important for the costs :( ... though often overlooked.

Would it then be possible to create some kind of baseline optimization tool? Something that does the most basic optimizations for a game that, freeing up time/money to work on the finer points and just generally reducing costs? I'm going to openly admit that I'm not a programmer, so I don't even know if something like that would be possible.

OT: Well, I'm glad someone inside the industry is saying it. I could have done without the subtle title mentions though.

Celebrities get paid the same amount of money that regular voice actors do. In fact is most video games studios do not use celebrities, they use either in-house staff or regular voice actors. Marketing is usually paid by the publisher, but it works. A great marketing campaign pays for itself. Marketing is vital.

I know this is unpopular, but bottom line if consumers want more innovation, they need to pay their fair share for games. Games need to cost more.

What Ms. Raymond says is true, but the way she says it makes me uneasy. "Find more ways to make money" sounds a lot like many of the tactics that are frustrating gamers right now- DLC, online passes, DRM, stifling the used market, in-game advertising, large pre-order bonuses, and so on. And some might read "make ten times the amount of content that we were making before with the same amount of effort" as, well, Copy and Paste.

It's clearly true that there are advances that could be made in streamlining the tools used in game creation, making them less arcane and more functional to decrease both the time required to create assets with them and the time necessary to train people to use them and re-train people to use new versions. Hopefully the future will bring this; there's some suggestion that systems like Unreal and Unity are indeed moving in this direction, and the "independent" scene is already beginning to benefit.

But some things are always going to require a certain amount of time and effort, and some of those things simply can't get easier in the new generation. Designing HD textures and models that warrant next-generation hardware can't be forced, plot trees need to be designed and pruned, soundtracks need to be composed and orchestrated, controller latency code has to be optimized.

Costs may improve if they're willing to put in the work, but I sometimes wonder if the real change needs to be made in expectations.

shirkbot:

Charcharo:
Developing for high end hardware is easier than for low end. Optimization is VERY expensive. And usually there are ways to make use of newer technology in order to cheapen and easen your way in development. Also it wont limit the artists and level designers as much as low end harware, which can again make costs rise up. The lowering of costs from knowing the consoles hardware is a reality, but the other things are usually more important for the costs :( ... though often overlooked.

Would it then be possible to create some kind of baseline optimization tool? Something that does the most basic optimizations for a game that, freeing up time/money to work on the finer points and just generally reducing costs? I'm going to openly admit that I'm not a programmer, so I don't even know if something like that would be possible.

OT: Well, I'm glad someone inside the industry is saying it. I could have done without the subtle title mentions though.

Depends on the engine and the developers. UE 3 supposedly does some of that. The engine of 4A games (makers of Metro Last Light) suposedly ported the game onto both consoles in less than a month. They also claim their engine easily just worked on the PS3. That is very impressive. I too as well hope things will get better in the future.
Still, marketing, voice actors Id say contribute just as much to a game's cost.

here is an idea. I know this sounds crazy... SLASH BUDGETS. announce to the world you are going to be making games at (and I am pulling a random year out of my ass here) 2007 budgets and crews, with a devotion to high quality while at those low budgets.

Charcharo:
Depends on the engine and the developers. UE 3 supposedly does some of that. The engine of 4A games (makers of Metro Last Light) suposedly ported the game onto both consoles in less than a month. They also claim their engine easily just worked on the PS3. That is very impressive. I too as well hope things will get better in the future.
Still, marketing, voice actors Id say contribute just as much to a game's cost.

Oh no, you're absolutely right, especially on the marketing point which can cost as much or more than the actual game's production. This was just what I saw as the most easily achieved because all anyone has to do is Make it and I'm sure developers would gladly adopt it.

My suggestion would be for game developers and game publishers to stop pinning the entirety of their business model on triple-A game development and marketing. Try diversifying the portfolio. Make an investment of smaller, tighter games that don't require so much development resources but can sell extremely well and garner a reasonable profit margin.

Triple-A gaming long ago hit the point where innovation pretty much died on the altar of risk-aversion. Now, it's moving ever closer to complete unprofitability as games like Resident Evil 5 (I think it was) can sell 5+ million copies and still be labeled a failure. Hell, back in the day, a game selling 1 million copies was a phenomenal success and label as the greatest, most popular game ever. Now, 5+ million, and it's a complete failure. There's a serious disconnect going on somewhere.

"Triple A costs stifle in industry so we'll only chase after Triple A titles and run them into the ground!"

Or did everyone forget that Ubisoft is only going to back AAA titles that they can franchise?

Ubisoft, where the publishing arm requires all employees to get a lobotomy.

Why does Every game have to be "AAA" or "Indie"? What happened to the awesome middle ground?

lacktheknack:
Holy carp, Ubisoft! You've gone from my "Worst Game Producers Evar" to "One of the Betters" in, like, four months.

Keep in mind that this is just one person at the company saying this, and she's just one of the studio heads, not one of the business executives. For all the higher ups probably care, her saying this might as well be a fart in the breeze.

We're still talking about the company that firmly stated they have no interest in making games that can't be drawn out into long-running franchises, and that they intend to crap out sequels for said long-running franchises on a yearly basis.

harrisonmcgiggins:
Why does Every game have to be "AAA" or "Indie"? What happened to the awesome middle ground?

still plenty of awesome there tbh...just maybe not on consoles.

rocking some Torchlight II atm myself...

Costs will fall with the ease of computing these next gen consoles. In fact, simplicity will most likely push developers away from this generation by end of 2014.

And so we'll go from developers launching a title over 6 platforms, to just 2. Wii U is left behind, and the PC will get a slightly more upgraded version, but nothing very intense.

But by 2015, I'm convinced that even the most hardcore PC enthusiasts will own a PS4 or Xbox One.

Use last years tech for new gameplay... it's ok if your game isn't the greatest looking game ever if its gameplay is sublime.

Stop wasting money on trying to squeeze more polygons out of dated tech!

Also, have some restraint when it comes to spending. There is no reason for a game to cost so damn much to develop when there isn't anything new on offer.

Free-to-pay and Microtransactions? Yeah, no. The way you make money is by not having bloated multi million dollar development costs

DTWolfwood:
Use last years tech for new gameplay... it's ok if your game isn't the greatest looking game ever if its gameplay is sublime.

Stop wasting money on trying to squeeze more polygons out of dated tech!

Actually the best thing would be to keep the tech requirement about 3 years back. See it makes no sense to buy a game that only people who bought their PC's this year or last year will be able to enjoy. I am not gonna shell out $70 on a graphics card to play your $60 game.

But the simplest way is... stop worrying about polygons. gamers will forgive polygons if you give them engaging gameplay and narrative. Look at Thomas was alone or Awesomenauts. Seriously, stop spending money like it was water and actually give gamers finished products. Sell games, and gamers will buy games.

StewShearer:

Ubisoft Toronto's Jade Raymond believes triple-A development costs will limit videogames if new approaches to limit costs aren't explored.

She estimates this exploration will cost several billion dollars and require multiple DLC packs to accomplish.

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