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What cau$ed the decline?

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Xorazm, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. Xorazm Arbiter

    Xorazm
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    Apologies if this subject has been done to death, but I realize that while it's generally accepted that cRPGs (and, arguably, gaming as a whole) went into a decline starting in the early 2000s, I don't have a very firm understanding of what caused it to happen and what is ultimately driving the recent promise of a turnaround.

    One thing in particular that jumps out at me regarding the Kickstarter renaissance is the recurring theme of once-bright devs being stuck in casual/mobile/MMO hell and finally reaching to Kickstarter as a means to escape and return to their passion projects. The problem is that I'm just not really sure if that narrative, which I've seen pop up time and again, is ultimately true and, if so, what fundamental shifts in the marketplace would have led them to being stuck for so long in exile.

    A commonly cited culprit would be the encroachment of consoles, but while I don't dispute the influence there I don't quite understand the hows and why of it. Why did the console-ization of the market begin to set in about a decade ago as opposed to any other time? Part of the decline is surely due to the collapse of developing groups like Troika, Looking Glass and Interplay, but is this connected to the same market forces that led to the general trend of console-ization or an entirely separate set of catastrophes? Is there any connection with the peculiar coincidence that, during all of this, Piranha Bytes also managed to squeeze out a couple of classic games before receding into irrelevance despite remaining whole as a company?

    The best guess I can come up with, and this is flimsy at best, is that while gaming grew as an industry, the size of the pie occupied by consoles grew to such an extent that the big publishers all turned in that direction as their primary focus, leaving the PC market, already withered due to the mid-2000s rise of torrents, as an afterthought. A number of once-bright PC devs, who had grown accustomed to making games for the PC, simply couldn't quite adjust to language of games demanded by consoles and so therefore their output suffered (Epic Mickey being a good example of this). During this period, it became difficult for PC-focused devs to attract any publisher's attention towards any PC focused products, until Kickstarter came along and demonstrated that there was an untapped market there still willing to pay for quality titles.

    That's the best I can come up with based on my own very limited understanding and I'll be the first to admit it's probably significantly flawed. Is there a standard narrative behind this or are we all still grasping at straws?
     
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  2. Gozma Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Gozma
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    Publishers fighting over shelf space. Growing budgets and team sizes on the development side. Increased advertising leading to games finding audiences instead of audiences finding games. It leads to lowest common denominator type designs. Games ended up in a blockbuster sales model.

    It's the way it is now because of massive decentralization of distribution (no shelf space problem), crowdfunding + diversification of funding models in general, new audiences, and cultural fragmentation.
     
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  3. abnaxus Arcane Patron

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    ur mom
     
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  4. Trodat Cipher Patron

    Trodat
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    Xbox 360 provided good enough graphix for fair price and reliable online play, you know games like CoD are popular as hell.
     
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  5. Athelas Arcane

    Athelas
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    Hasn't this been discussed to death? The launch of the XBox, at the time the first prominent western console in like forever, made formerly PC-exclusive developers abandon the PC to seek their fortune in the console market.
     
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  6. Gozma Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Gozma
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    Consoles were incidental
     
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  7. Infinitron I post news Patron

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    I've suggested in the past that the reasons may have been partly technical/technological. Increasingly powerful programming tools (for example, IDEs such as Microsoft Visual Studio, which really only came into its own in the early 2000s) made multiplatform development more feasible than it was before, giving formerly PC-centric developers courage to train their programmers to make the jump.

    I don't think the tools were there yet in the 90s to allow for ubiquitous multiplatform game development for, say, Super Nintendo and PC. So instead developers specialized.
     
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  8. Modron Arcane

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    IIRC there were some changes to store display policies as they began charging to have games displayed on shelves in major retail chains (I think this was mentioned in the Why did Sirtech go bankrupt thread). Plus I am sure the rising cost of game development plus the collapse of the internet bubble pretty much made it nigh impossible for many of the medium sized development houses to continue/hold out from being purchased by EA :kfc:.
     
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  9. evdk comrade troglodyte :M Patron

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    Codex 2012 Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    All of us.
     
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  10. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    octavius
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    Yes, the X-Box bridged the healthy gap that was between console gamers and PC gamers, and now games could truly be mass manufactured to the lowest common denominator.
     
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  11. IncendiaryDevice Self-Ejected Village Idiot

    Self-Ejected
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    The obsession to must have 3d graphics.

    This unfortunate misguided belief killed no end of PC stalwart titles from Worms to Broken Sword and from Balder's Gate to Commando. This drove the impetus of design towards cut-scenes, quicktime events, and uninteresting combat and away from tactics, quick-flowing gameplay, and involved problem solving.

    You could argue this is the same argument as consolisation.
     
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  12. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Part of it was surely just cost-benefit analysis and natural greed. A person can be perfectly happy with, and very proud of, working like a dog to do his very best job and earning just enough to get by until he finds out that his neighbor is working half as hard and making ten times as much. Then, the pride he used to take in his work seems like gullibility, and the "just enough" becomes grossly inadequate. That's especially so if his neighbor is being heralded as a genius artiste and he's being mentioned, if at all, as an eccentric weirdo. A huge amount of the work that went into a game like Arcanum was just wasted or even counterproductive from the standpoint of profits and acclaim. On the face of it, it seems easier to make a less reactive, streamlined, more cinematic game, and yet it was the latter kind of game that was raking in the dough and winning plaudits.

    I'm not saying that the people who make a game like Mass Effect are actually "working half as hard"; in fact, conditions at EA are probably pretty sweat-shoppy. But from the standpoint of the decision-maker, it's a no-brainer which of those games to make even if that decision-maker once was a noble, hard-working craftsman with his heart in the right place. But the no-brainer decision turned out to be wrong: many of the people who thought they could make Diablo or Mass Effect (or whatever consolized, cinematic, limitedly interactive RPG you want to insert) couldn't; whether you think Wozniak is better or worse than Jobs, Woz could no more be Jobs than Jobs could be Woz. So lots of people who once were masters of a proud if meager domain wound up, at best, servants to mighty emperor. These folks represented an untapped asset, and Kickstarter was the tool for tapping it, since it gave them a chance to start over again at the games that they could make well, which once seemed insufficiently profitable. I'm not sure that the games are really so much more profitable now, but after waiting on angels, perhaps people came to think it was better to reign in hell.
     
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  13. :Flash: Arcane

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    It's not only the tools, it's also the architecture. An XBox is much closer to a PC than a Playstation. A lot of games that were multiplatform and not from AAA publishers were PC and XBox only.

    I don't think it's a coincidence. It has to do with the German market and the German developer scene, which somehow always seems to lag behind US in a peculiar way. When in the US, consoles had already taken over, in Germany PC gaming was still a thing. It wasn't until the last few years that we saw a significant reduction of PC game retail space in comparison in favour of console games.
    This also happened during the shift away from Commodore/Atari towards PCs. Germany was the last bastion of the Amiga, in terms of both sales and development. It's not a coincidence that Germany churned out top quality Amiga RPGs (Fate, Amberstar,...), when the US was going PC exclusive. Heck, Ambermoon was an Amiga exclusive RPG that was released a year after Ultima VII.
    The same effect can also be seen in the primary platform: The reason Ambermoon was an Amiga exclusive is that Thalion went bankrupt before they finished the PC port. Games in Germany were developed for the Amiga and then ported to PC. whereas already Ultima VI was developed for the PC and then ported to other systems. Similarly, US multiplatform games are often developed as console games and then ported to the PC, whereas smaller European devs still develop for the PC and then try to port to the Consoles (PB, Larian).
     
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  14. Bio Force Ape Arcane

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    An invasion of dudebros.
     
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  15. AngryKobold Cipher

    AngryKobold
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    Business happened. Business directed at broad target group, once this form of entertainment got popular. Also dumb mammals. A lot of them.
     
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  16. nikolokolus Arcane

    nikolokolus
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    Computer gaming went from being a niche hobby for nerds, to a mainstream big business.
     
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  17. Night Goat The Immovable Autism Patron No Fun Allowed

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    Consoles made gaming available to the masses, and the masses are fucking idiots. Of course consoles existed before the 2000s, but that's when consoles became stripped-down PCs. So every game was made for idiots, and because a lot more of the idiots were using consoles than PCs, the games were made for consoles before being (maybe) ported over.

    Of course, there are some genres that have never worked on consoles, but those were hit with their own decline. World of Warcraft and League of Legends (or was it DotA? they're all the same to me) ruined MMORPGs and strategy games by being shit games that became incredibly popular by manipulating the players' neurochemistry (yes, really). So these genres have been spammed with clones ever since, because the melonheads running the industry all want a piece of that pie.
     
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  18. Infinitron I post news Patron

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    RPG Wokedex Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Matt Chat's recent interview with Ed Fries, the original Xbox's "prime evangelist" at Microsft, touches on the topic of how it essentially launched a Western reconquista of the console space:



    It's interesting to theorize about what would have happened to RPGs and PC gaming in general if this had not happened. I'd say it's still likely that some sort of "decline" would have occurred, but rather than existing PC franchises being ruined by multiplatform development, you would have just seen PC games dwindle down, to be replaced by console-exclusive games on the Playstation.
     
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  19. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

    Jaesun
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    Because the focus and passion of making a game switched to greed and profitability.

    It did not matter what shit you would churn out, if it makes money and was profitable, they would continue toward that model.

    And that is why you will see AAA developers continue to churn out garbage after garbage title, because they continue to make profits of them (and mainly in party because they target the general console gaming public).
     
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  20. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    IMHO, there are four big factors:

    The Xbox;
    Gaming becomes a mass market industry;
    3D become a "mandatory" thing;
    The rise in development costs.
     
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  21. Athelas Arcane

    Athelas
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    I don't see what 3d has to do with it. PC games like Thief and Deus Ex utilized 3d space better than any console game.
     
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  22. CyberP Unwanted

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    Microsoft and their fucking Xbox indeed. It was a slow decline from that point onward up until 2006 or so, then everything went to shit come the 360 generation.

    Another part of it I think is most publishers outright refusing to support anything less than 'AAA' and being way too invasive with design, but I guess those are the consequences of each of your points.

    I think it is weird little has been done to support game developers that want to make games as an art form, outside of Kickstarter anyway. If I wanted to make a game that completely disregards modern design and business practices where can I turn? I doubt I'd have much luck on Kickstarter as you ideally need a track record for that, at least to get a worthwhile amount of funds.
     
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  23. Nyast Arbiter

    Nyast
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    The race to higher budgets.

    As competition increased, budget increased too. Whereas RPGs ( and games in general ) were developped with less than a dozen people before, in the 2000s+ we started to see 100+ developers per project, and the explosion of the budget into the millions, tens of millions, and even hundreds of millions...

    Higher budget means that the game has to sell to a wider audience. You can't be satisfied with a couple hundred thousand sales anymore. Therefore your game must reach everybody, even the non-hardcode RPG fans.

    As a consequence, gameplay has to be streamlined/simplified to appeal to as many people as possible.
     
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  24. Perkel Arcane

    Perkel
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    It was costly. We are not talking here about some unity crap people make in few days because now they have tools that are essentially free for them.

    We are talking here about MIT grads creating games using advanced math and physics without any kind of tools. Same people who could as well go to wall streat and fuck pussy all day for real money and the more fireworks games invented the more costly it became.
     
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  25. DaveO Erudite

    DaveO
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    The .com bubble burst around 2000, Y2K scare turned out to be a joke, Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. That's all in the span of only a few years for the beginning. One gigahertz processors started showing up in 1999, and then 64 bit computing became available for XP in 2005. AGP got phased out by PCI express. You could write a book about all the changes but I doubt few people would care beyond five years ago as far as history.
     
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