Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Editorial Swen Vincke on why Larian isn't making Facebook games

Zed

Codex Staff
Patron
Staff Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2002
Messages
17,068
Codex USB, 2014
Tags: Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

Swen Vincke of Larian Studios has updated his blog with an entry called Seeking the Golden Path. A journalist got Swen to think about low budget vs. high budget, and why Larian has chosen to remain in the AAA-playing field. Why are they afraid of switching to a low budget market? Here's why:

Oversimplifying and slightly misrepresenting things, this reasoning is what lead to the following business strategies being implemented in the past: Quality of X360 too high for you? No problem, make a DS game. Quality too high there too? Try making an Iphone game. Can’t manage that either? Well how about HTML5 ? That getting too crowded? Perhaps it’s time for a serious game? Too tough a market? Have you tried gamifcation? Etc…

I’m only half-kidding, because the track records of many developers who disappeared from that big game-industry-map they send around each year (which doesn’t include Larian for some stupid reason), indeed show that several of them followed the strategy sketched here, and then perished…

Faced with more complicated and thus more expensive development as a result of technological innovation, the survival strategy these developers adopted was to look for the path of least resistance, preferably in growing markets, in the vain hope of making it big there. Admittedly, this worked for some, typically the pioneers, but in most cases it didn’t work at all, especially when inevitably the competition in those markets started increasing.

Larian did exactly the opposite last time we had a generation shift. Instead of turning our eyes to simpler things, we decided to go full monty and dived blindfolded into next-gen-console-development-hell, creating the monster that was Divinity II: Ego Draconis, and eventually polymorphed that into Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga. That we burned ourselves pretty badly in the process shouldn’t come as a surprise, but in hindsight, it wasn’t such a bad strategy.​

He's got a point. How many developers have fallen off the radar because they've chosen to switch to markets where the audience doesn't really give a shit and the developers are basically marketing agencies? Imagine where Brian Fargo would be without Kickstarter.

Read the rest of Swen's blog here.
 

abnaxus

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
10,858
Location
Fiernes
In the same conversation, the guy showed what he considered to be his cultural dominance by stating that Belgium had no art history at all. I remember being quite mad about this, but I didn’t bother correcting him. Instead I rewarded him for his ignorance by immortalizing him in Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga as a particular sad character, the dude souldbound to a chicken (if you haven’t seen it, just click the link) Tbh, I still regret doing that – he didn’t deserve it.
Pity Swen never reveals names.
 

MicoSelva

backlog digger
Patron
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
7,492
Location
Vigil's Keep
Codex 2012 Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Insert Title Here RPG Wokedex Strap Yourselves In Codex Year of the Donut Codex+ Now Streaming! Enjoy the Revolution! Another revolution around the sun that is. Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Divinity: Original Sin 2 Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I helped put crap in Monomyth
I don't think that Watch Dogs (of which I've never heard of until now) and Far Cry 3 (which does not interest me in the slightest) are appealing to the same market segment as any of the Larian games. I consider smaller budget of Sven's games to be an advantage, as it means he does not have to sell as much copies to get profit, which means he does not have to "streamline" to gain wider audience.

I do have my doubts about Dragon Commander and Original Sin selling well enough that Larian gets their budget for the Ultra Ultimate RPG. It is a nice ambition and I wish them good luck, but... we will see, I guess.
 

abnaxus

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
10,858
Location
Fiernes
Things would probably be a lot easier with state funding for game devs (like FunCom in Norway) which is non-existant in Belgium.
 

JarlFrank

I like Thief THIS much
Patron
Joined
Jan 4, 2007
Messages
33,281
Location
KA.DINGIR.RA.KI
Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
These new social media games and iphone games are bubbles anyway that can burst at any moment, precisely because they're usually crap for casual gamers who don't really give much of a shit and aren't even interested in who made the games they play.
They're games they play for half an hour because they're bored, or games they play because their friends invited them to play with them, or games they play because the ad for them looked kinda cool. A year later, they will have forgotten all about that game and moved on to the next thing that's currently "in".

It's a much riskier business model because of that. If you keep making PC games of a certain genre and gather a solid fanbase, you can be pretty sure that your sequels and other games will sell, too, because there's an audience and that audience knows what it wants and knows that you can deliver. Medium-budget niche PC games are probably the best market out there - the fanbase is reasonably large, the costs are manageable if you don't try to compete with the top dogs, and once you've built a reputation in the right places (such as Codex and other RPG websites) and know where/how to best reach your audience (like knowing that Europe is a better market for your niche games than the US) you are pretty much financially secure if you keep on delivering quality products.
 

Semper

Cipher
Joined
Jan 12, 2012
Messages
747
MCA Project: Eternity
These new social media games and iphone games are bubbles anyway that can burst at any moment, precisely because they're usually crap for casual gamers who don't really give much of a shit and aren't even interested in who made the games they play. They're games they play for half an hour because they're bored, or games they play because their friends invited them to play with them, or games they play because the ad for them looked kinda cool. A year later, they will have forgotten all about that game and moved on to the next thing that's currently "in".

that's the whole point of social media games. to be played for just a few minutes while browsing the profiles of others and friends... this crap is played by hundreds of millions of people. a player base other publishers are dreaming of and if only a handful of those people use the micro transactions then this will generate a huge profit with hardly any production investment, not to talk about the commercials income.
 

JarlFrank

I like Thief THIS much
Patron
Joined
Jan 4, 2007
Messages
33,281
Location
KA.DINGIR.RA.KI
Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
Yeah, but it's not a long term investment. Once the whole social media game fad is over, nobody will remember or care about these games, and many of these companies will go under. It's good for a quick profit - if you manage to make a successful game - but has no guarantee for long term success.
 

Morkar Left

Guest
Yeah, but it's not a long term investment. Once the whole social media game fad is over, nobody will remember or care about these games, and many of these companies will go under. It's good for a quick profit - if you manage to make a successful game - but has no guarantee for long term success.

Yeah, you're basically competing on the level of a minesweeper or Moorhuhn game. Which means it's always hit or miss. You have to be lucky to develop a short, easy to understand and addicting game which has to allow for microtransactions AND needs to get the (viral) marketing right to get recognized by people. The later alone will already be a huge moneysink I guess which counters the low production costs.
 

JarlFrank

I like Thief THIS much
Patron
Joined
Jan 4, 2007
Messages
33,281
Location
KA.DINGIR.RA.KI
Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
Remember the recent news posted in General Gaming: the profits of Zynga, that top facebook game company, have gone down dramatically. The bubble already seems to be bursting.

Facebook games are much more high risk than niche RPGs because they're much more hit-and-miss, and because the audience is unpredictable, especially compared to a niche that knows what it wants.
 
Joined
Jan 7, 2012
Messages
14,407
I have a suspicion that the skyrocketing game development costs aren't happening because publishers think those games are actually more profitable than multiple smaller games. They are skyrocketing because publishers know that if they can raise the finance bar so that only $100 million games are "AAA" then 95% of their competition will kill itself trying to match this.
 

sea

inXile Entertainment
Developer
Joined
May 3, 2011
Messages
5,698
Nice article as usual, though I have to wonder if Swen is in denial mode. I would hardly call Divinity II a big, expensive, triple-A game - or a failure as he seems to think it is (I could have sworn the long-term sales have been quite good), and Divinity: Original Sin and Dragon Commander, though big-budget, are still relatively small next to most other titles, to say nothing of the $100 million behemoths. Larian are pretty damn niche, and I think their business model and success reflects that, as well as the quality of their games (pretty damn good).

I also like the subtle digs at Ubisoft. As a Canadian who has seen their operations grow and grow the last few years (and has yet to be hired even though I'm oh-so-qualified :() I do have to imagine that most of it comes down to the government's support of the games industry. The thinking, I believe, is much like the film craze in Canada during the 90s and early 2000s - it's cheaper to shoot here, and even though it's not as good as having Canadian businesses outright running the show, getting big American companies in will drive local economies. Problem is that the money will go away, and the bubble will burst. That kind of massive studio making massively expensive games just isn't sustainable, and is the same kind of shit that got 38 Studios in trouble. Ubisoft can't afford a flop... I don't think they can even afford to keep doing what they're doing, to be honest.
 

Tramboi

Prophet
Patron
Joined
May 4, 2009
Messages
1,228
Location
Paris by night
(agreed, but Ubi s not a "big kwan company")

By the way, it is quite arrogant of him to say his team could match the bigger teams in quality per dollar, they certainly didn't demonstrate anything technically impressive yet. Marketing BS, even if he sincerely believes it.

And game journalists can barely read and write, why care about their opinion about flemish art?
Do I care about the hivemind about Céline or Pérec?
 
Joined
Jan 7, 2012
Messages
14,407
(agreed, but Ubi s not a "big kwan company")

By the way, it is quite arrogant of him to say his team could match the bigger teams in quality per dollar, they certainly didn't demonstrate anything technically impressive yet. Marketing BS, even if he sincerely believes it.

And game journalists can barely read and write, why care about their opinion about flemish art?
Do I care about the hivemind about Céline or Pérec?

They've been as much or more technically impressive than 95% of games released recently. Jack shit is really happening with everything being a console port.
 

Tramboi

Prophet
Patron
Joined
May 4, 2009
Messages
1,228
Location
Paris by night
Yep and 95% of games released recently are not technically impressive!
Technically impressive is not always about eye candy. A really smooth optimized game, or lightning-quick loadings are criteria to judge good coding, too.
Does Divinty2 even sustain a solid 30fps on Xbox? I heard it doesn't.
 

JarlFrank

I like Thief THIS much
Patron
Joined
Jan 4, 2007
Messages
33,281
Location
KA.DINGIR.RA.KI
Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
Who cares what the game does on XBox as long as the performance is solid on the only platform that matters - PC.

Also, I don't think there's a point in always upgrading your graphic effects whenever some new shit is invented. You don't have to have the latest super shaders in your game to do something that looks graphically impressive - art style and competent use of what you have is much more important.

Bethesda hyped their graphics in Oblivion because WE GOT BLOOM AND HDR AND DISTANT LAND AND ALL KINDS OF FUCKING SUPER EFFECT SHIT and it ended up looking like shit that has been eaten and puked out and eaten again and puked out again.
I'd rather take a game with solid graphics made in something like the source engine, with good character models, high quality textures, fluid animation and lots of little details added into the gameworld that make it feel alive rather than just pumping the most modern effects into your game in the hopes of making it visually impressive that way.
 

Tramboi

Prophet
Patron
Joined
May 4, 2009
Messages
1,228
Location
Paris by night
No console ports = shitty PC code in your game. You can believe me, most optimizations in games are driven by console ports.

I totally agree with you but your point is not about technical prowess, it is about art direction being more important in the global product.
And the Larian blog was talking about technology:
"Yet, there’s nothing I’ve seen technology wise in those videos that my team couldn’t pull off, provided they’d have access to the same budget."
 

Tolknaz

Augur
Patron
Joined
Dec 21, 2008
Messages
479
Location
Estonia
Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2
No console ports = shitty PC code in your game. You can believe me, most optimizations in games are driven by console ports.
Le fuck? Are you a Rockstar employee, really that stupid or both? The shittiest PC games performance and stability wise have always been multiplatform games.
 

Tramboi

Prophet
Patron
Joined
May 4, 2009
Messages
1,228
Location
Paris by night
No console ports = shitty PC code in your game. You can believe me, most optimizations in games are driven by console ports.
Hello... are you fucking sane?

No I'm not but I have been working in AAA game developement on various platforms for the twelve last years and I stand by my statement.
You can't imagine how wasteful of resources are most PC-only games.
Lots of code is deemed fast enough for PCs then get optimized because it is too slow on consoles.
And no TRC /TCR means : "don't fix your bugs mate, it doesn't matter".
 

GarfunkeL

Racism Expert
Joined
Nov 7, 2008
Messages
15,463
Location
Insert clever insult here
Um, while it has been true in the past that some dev's didn't need to polish their code because PCs were getting more and more powerful AND that consoles broke that cycle, worst performing PC-games in the last 5 years that I know of have always been multiplatform ones, while the PC-only games haven't had issues to the same extent.
 

Tramboi

Prophet
Patron
Joined
May 4, 2009
Messages
1,228
Location
Paris by night
Civilization 5 for instance is a huge hog that could run much much faster.
There are lots of those. It's mostly that our current PCs have grown so much more powerful than this generation consoles so we don't really notice.
(And then not all games are CPU bound of course)
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Back
Top Bottom