GDC Game Publisher Rant

Game Publisher rant, moderated by Eric Zimmerman

(Good stuff is in the end.)

Eric’s ran similar rant session a couple times before but for developers, not publishers. Wanted to collect a couple hot-headed talkers together and see what happens. Everyone has 5 minutes to deliver a rant.

Greg Kostikyan used to be a developer ranter but given the advent of Manifesto Games, is now a publisher ranter.

Alexei Jon

“I don’t think this is as much of a rant as group therapy.”

Big rant about how Vista’s broken almost everything except for big box titles such as WoW.

“Hey, it’s an open beta so it’s ok to be broken.” All casual games broke on Vista. All big portals, Yahoo!, MS Games site, all games broke. MS addressed the problem by telling in public that’s not true. “And anyway if it’s broken it’s probably spyware.” Btw the spyware actually works fine, it’s the real applications that don’t work. Funny thing about the security code is that it just stops you from using a computer so you can’t break your computer.

Richard Hilleman

“I’m not Gordon.” People coming to the business aren’t capable of leadership. Lots of people with excellent technical skills who can code but can’t coordinate a team of three. Genius is good but if you can’t communicate and coordinate, it’s not usefull. Leadership. Insight, experience is nice but again, doesn’t help if you’re not a good leader. Everyone is either a boss of someone or has a boss. If you’re not happy with your boss, you have to tell him and insist he gets better.

Eric wondering how you get a larger room when it’s publishers speaking.

Nichol Bradford

Leadership again – games industry should take leadership of schooling in some aspects. Young adults are aiming for computer related professions. Computer profession is now more popular than being a pro athlete. “More people want to code for WoW than be Coby.” Education a major social problem. “Education is the mass social proble, not whether I bring mascara to a plane.” Applause. Math, science, art, all good for games. Buy a game, you motivate your kid. Industry responsibility to provide material for discussion on education. Kids want us, we have to take the responsibility. Do you know the power you have to address issues? Do you know what you have to give to the world? Politicians are using games to their advantage to knock down first amendment rights, are you doing something about this? “This is not an appeal for educational games… this is a rant of someone who gives a damn.” Take action! If you want to volunteer to help, contact Nicol.

Personal note: Interesting take but did sound like someone preaching to a congregation.

Eric pointing out IGDA is working out on all issues that have been mentioned. “I guess there’s nobody who can speak better for them than I… I mean perhaps someone can speak much better for them than I.” :)

Jason De La Roca

We need to diversify the games culture. Leadership is changing, it’s more about coordination and cultivation than old style dictatorial management practices. Command and control doesn’t work anymore, never worked very well for games industry.

Chris Hecker

“Of course it’s the development that has the technical difficulty.” Xbox, PS3 gives a lot more power but not better gameplay. Wii manufacturing secret: two gamecuves duct-taped together. Wii has too little power, it’s not about graphics, it’s about making games smarter. Computation is not orthogonal to gameplay. AI needs CPU. “You can’t do smart games on a piece of shit underpowered CPU.”

Hard data, references to “artform” on sites: 30 15 0 5

“Even Xbox has over 50% more art than xbox.” Nintendo guys don’t think games should be / are an artform. This is not good enough for people leading the industry. Demands for Nintendo: “1. recognize and push games as an artform, 2. make a console that doesn’t suck ass.”

Later during QA: “Which one was the anti-wii? You’re so full of shit.” The actual argument of the Wii rant was, Nintendo has no interest in making actual serious games, they’re all about simple fun.

Lee Jacobson

If he wanted to rant about something, it’s dishonest developers. The dev community at large is honest, wants to do a good job and create good games, however over the last 12 yeaas, there’s this crazy shit that turns your hair green. Will share some of the shit with the audience: theft. There was a studio that was stealing money, pocketing the cash and telling developers the publisher didn’t pay. When devs confronted the publisher, the guys skipped town with 300k. Don’t do that.

Contracted with a studio, said they owned a platform and high skill developers, instead had a second team secretly doing the game, found out after a couple the milestones the company had no idea, project terminated, lots of anger in the air.

Visited a studio with supposedly two teams. One side of building had one team, went for lunch, came back, same guys wearing different clothes on the other side of the building. There just wasn’t anything to say.

Be honest about staffing, if you can’t take the project, just really don’t take it. Everyone will tell everyone anyway, publishers are not stupid, they’ve seen all the tricks in the book.

Greg Kostikyan

Can’t blame developers. Can blame console manufacturers. Charging ridiculously for devkits. Acting as second gatekeeper after the publisher. Games industry, the closed platforms are winning. Console manuf has scary power over indie publishers. 1985, Nintendo had the worst licensing terms ever. You had to pay to get your game on the platform. Predicting next gen will have only online retail. However consoles will still remain closed systems, all distribution will go through the console manufacturer. Sony will have the _only_ distribution channel to PS4 and hence full control of the retail channel. Very little we can do about this since the publishers only look forwards for one quarter, not five years. Perhaps we’re doomed.

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