Tag Archives: battlefield

Game Development and the Cost of Dreams

This post will likely be very dry, and at an extremely high view as it concerns the business of games as a commodity and how it pertains to employment, budgeting, and forecasting. Do not take me as an authority on this, rather an impassioned individual who has been burned by the lackluster business acumen of the game industry first hand. I will always defer to hard numbers which are not anecdotal on this subject.

The game industry is very much that, an industry, and an industry must profit. This is oft forgotten and overlooked because we enjoy it as an art, a sport, a social event, a tool, and a puzzle, so it comes as quite a shock when a studio shuts down. This post is not to defend any particular action, but rather to provide a little more detail to the overall financial situation of a game studio, with some topical anecdotal exploration in the conclusion.

Games are not made in a vacuum, but rather part of a larger studio budget. This budget includes the administrative staff, facilities and IT staff, HR staff, legal counsel, and the many other positions we take for granted that are part of any company. Their salaries and benefits, as well as the cost of the office space, utilities, hardware, software licenses, and more, are part of the base budget. Within that we have the game team(s), which has a similar structure but is comprised more so of the people you think of when it comes to game development.

The largest portion of any budget is the cost of the labor, and that is a factor of the local cost of living. Where your favorite game is made is a substantial factor in its profitability. The higher the cost of living, the tighter the margins, and even if a game is profitable, more work on that same scope is risky because of the location. I’ve written about this before with The Costs of Kickstarting in Expensive Cities and it still applies here, as many games are made in California, which is in general expensive.

An aside to that is the subject of outsourcing, as the reason outsourced labor is so much cheaper is typically due to cost of living differences, and in many cases, the outsource is located on the opposite side of the globe, Poland and India both being common locations, which is very convenient to tight deadlines as it allows for around the clock work on the project, though due to the difficulties of time zone differences, this labor is usually constrained to QA, art, and isolated engineering components that require little synchronization with the primary developer.

Already we are looking at a large amount of expenditures to overcome with sales of the game, but people won’t buy your game if they don’t know about it, and thus enters marketing. Marketing is never cheap, but always necessary. At a minimum, take the game’s budget, and allocate it all over again as a baseline for marketing, though it can easily go higher, say, four times as high for a large project like Call of Duty, or something akin to Blizzard’s partnership with Yum Brands. It isn’t cheap to get Soldier 76 on your large soda at Taco Bell, and the game is going to have to recoup that as well. Continue reading

What Battlefield: Hardline Could Have Been

Recently there has been some hubbub over Battlefield: Hardline (henceforth referred to as Hardline), with various leaks taking place. At E3 today (this post will go up on Wednesday in theory) we saw a good bit more of it. EA had a big presentation about it, with the news that a closed beta was open now, and people could go register for it. I didn’t bother, partly because I don’t think I have the time to get properly into it, partly because I don’t feel like messing with Origin which I assume it will require, and partly because it just doesn’t look like much.

I joked in a YouTube comment that it was no wonder they closed off modding in Battlefield 3 or 4, if this was the level of content they were planning on supplying. However it does look like a mod, a sentiment shared by the folks at PC Gamer, as seen below:

It is also rather reinforced by this straight gameplay footage, also from PC Gamer:

Other than voice acting, there is one aspect that this doesn’t share with mods: creativity. Mods usually shake up an existing game, rather than simply decorating it. The game appears to be symmetrical, with military grade everything. Really, it looks like Battlefield playing dress up, along with a wooden stock shotgun, taser, and what essentially seems to be one-flag CTF, but the flag is broken into smaller pieces. So with that said, let me put on my armchair designer hat, and take you on a wondrous tour/bulleted improvised list of what I would do with this theme: Continue reading

You’ll Never Guess What’s In RPS’ CoD Coverage

Oversimplifications.

Things the genre has but only this franchise gets criticized for.

Reverse xenophobia.

Hoplophobia.

Franchise ignorance.

Genre ignorance.

Platform ignorance.

Individual release ignorance.

Misunderstandings of marketing schedules.

Double-standards for advertising.

Okay, I guess that is enough. It isn’t that Call of Duty isn’t worthy of critique or even lampooning, it has plenty of issues, its mechanics are far from perfect, its community leaves much to be desired, and it can be samey. But what of this separates it from similar games which get treated much more considerately? Dog puns and fish AI jokes? This is akin to reviewing Full Throttle on the basis of five o’clock shadow rather than the story. Ghosts has a rather different perk system, it has a strike package system, it has contextual leaning and smoother object traversal to keep the player flowing in a fight rather than going through clunky state changes. It has been stated the PC version is receiving higher quality assets than any of the console releases. Your character classes persist as AI while you are offline, earning XP which reduces the grind of the game. The single player abandons all safely established characters from the franchise, and yet none of this ever gets brought up. Instead people point and laugh at the action game having explosions and showing the most cinematic events in the trailer. Continue reading

Am Gun, Will Travel

It can be argued that the experience of a first person shooter is actually the act of being a sentient roaming gun. Though some 2nd Amendment debates would hold this is the case in reality, it could be more reasonably articulated that it is in many ways the case in games. On a technical level, often the player is just a bounding box with a weapon visible, perhaps some hands, and in multiplayer they are displayed as a character to other bounding boxes with a weapon visible. Metaphysically speaking, now that sounds fancy, the primary input with the game world in an FPS is simply shooting (particularly in the Quake franchise which centers its logic systems around damage or proximity) so obviously the gun at hand is a primary source of expression.

This however is greatly impacted by the inventory and spawning system of the game. In the Quake and Unreal franchises you spawn with a certain supply of weapons, and you find others in the environment. The weapons are expressions of discovery, what you have found, they represent exploration and knowledge. These weapons are also usually fairly distinct, sure they can be broken down by simply hitscan or projectiles, but no one is going to argue that Quake Live’s (and thus Quake 3’s) Plasma Gun and Rocket Launcher are particularly similar weapons. The weapons are intentionally as distinct as their location in a level and are designed to occupy a large range of design space within the scope of the mechanics. Continue reading

The Myth of the Thinking Man’s Shooter

Not to say that thinking is a myth in a shooter, but rather that it is a myth that there is a special class of shooter which requires thinking as substantially distinct separation from other shooters.

I’ve been told many times that Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Bioshock, Battlefield, or any number of other games are “the thinking man’s shooters”, whether by fans or developers through implied statements, or direct marketing campaigns.

However this implies, as does the Half-Life advertisement above, that other shooters are comparatively simple. It does this by reducing the terms allowed to describe other games without reducing the terminology available to them. It does this by observing one game with a low resolution, and another with a higher resolution. Continue reading