Cost-Effective Marketing Model

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by SAAj, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. SAAj

    SAAj New Member

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    I'm new to game development, and although I am perfectly content with producing indie titles, I would also like to use them as marketing vehicles for large developers, as some of my ideas require technical expertise and sheer manpower that I don't have access to. Among songwriters, a stripped-down demo encompassing the lyric/composition is sufficient for submission to a major label; they fill in the blanks with their own studio musicians and producers. Is this method legally and economically viable in the game industry?

    For example: let's say I created Counter-Strike, which fundamentally alters Half-Life's gameplay while adhering to its physics engine, interface, and so on. Let's say I didn't want to make Counter-Strike a Half-Life spinoff, but rather intended to create an entirely new FPS built from the ground up. If I submitted Counter-Strike to a major developer, would they be expected to craft a new FPS from scratch and incorporate the elements which make Counter-Strike unique? Let's assume these aren't just a few interesting notions, but rather thoroughly balanced character creation/progression systems, combat engines, possibly even campaigns/characters? In other words, can I use an existing game as a template for new ideas, and expect a major developer to create a game on the strength of these concepts?
     
  2. Nikos Beck

    Nikos Beck New Member

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    Probably the best avenue for that sort of thing is a venture capitalist who can dump money into production.

    Large studios have design staff who reject a hundred ideas a day. It'd be tough to offer such a studio an idea they haven't already considered and binned.

    It might be a way into the industry. If I remember correctly, the developers of Counter Strike were snatched up by Valve. The developers of Narbacular Drop (the inspiration for Portal) as well. Developing a great mod is a way to get noticed and hired by large studios.
     
  3. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    If they liked your mod chances are they would hire you to make it into a full game. They probably wouldn't just give you money for the idea and then make it with their team.
     
  4. Sybixsus

    Original Member

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    Yes, but you can't reasonably expect them to pay you anything for those ideas.

    Ideas have very little intrinsic value. Ideas that sound good on paper often are not in practice, and vice versa. You can't compare with music because a stripped down demo that sounds good should lead to a track that sounds good. An idea that sounds good has little or no bearing on how well it will actually play.

    Ultimately, of course, all games have to be developed from an idea, whether it's a prototype or whatever, but if you don't want to make your own idea, why would anyone else? If they're going to take a chance on you anyway, they're at least going to expect you to believe in your idea so badly that the thought of someone else doing it makes you feel queasy.

    If your ideas are too big, you have two choices. Get smaller ideas* or get funded.

    * You only need smaller ideas at first, of course. As you get bigger, so can your ideas.
     
  5. lennard

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Yeah, everybody wants to be the idea guy. I realized after just about 20 years as a programmer that really, I'm only a programmer so that I can realize my design ideas. My advice would be to learn how to program or create game assets if you really want to be in the industry.
     
  6. SAAj

    SAAj New Member

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    Thank you for your replies. Yes, I figure ideas alone won't get me too far, and at best, are going to get my work imitated rather than purchased. However, I believe the area where my strengths lie would be design (if that's not too vague).

    For example, rather than just giving someone the idea that "different weapon types ought to do different types of damage to any given piece of armor", I would go so far as to say "blunt weapons ought to be more effective against heavy, inflexible armor such as plate mail, while sharp weapons ought to be more effective against light, malleable armor such as leather. Blunt weaponry should likewise be fairly effective against these light armors, but less practical due to its generally heavier weight and subsequently slower attacks, more easily evaded by lightly-clad targets than their more heavily-armored counterparts. Spiked weapons should be effective against all armor types, but require a high base dexterity due to the innate fragility of such weapons, as well as more complex maintenance and shorter overall lifespans than other weapon types." At this point, it would be left to the beta testers and other number crunchers to figure out just how fragile the spiked weapons should be, how slow the blunt weapons should swing, etc., to fine-tune the balance.

    Would an entire combat system encompassing this level of detail, and then branching into individual weapons/armors per campaign, be a sufficient contribution to a project? Is this the sort of role that would fall under the label 'designer', or am I looking at a different area of expertise?
     
  7. jcottier

    jcottier New Member

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    Ideas are worthless if you cannot implement them.

    Create a mod showing off your ideas, this is the only way to get a minimum of interest. If you have to learn something (technology, tools...) to do this, then learn...

    Games are interactive medium, if you cannot play it, there is no way to know if it is a good idea or not.

    Unless you are a famous designer, nobody will care about your "great idea".

    JC
     
  8. Scurvy Lobster

    Scurvy Lobster New Member

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    jcottier is right. Ideas are a dime a dozen. You hardly ever see a game company in search of another game designer. Everybody wants to be one, so companies are flooding with them already.

    I work as a level designer at a mobile games company where we collaboratively and iteratively do new designs. To me that is an excellent solution to not paying for a game designer.

    Modding has also been an excellent path to glory for many. Go to Moddb.com for everything in that area. I was project manager for a small Half Life 2 mod nearly a year ago. You can check it out: http://www.moddb.com/mods/9304/the-way

    Btw. Where I work we refuse to even look at game ideas we are sent. This is simply to avoid accusations of stealing ideas. I believe that most other companies treat external ideas the same way.

    My best advice is to learn how to make "stuff" for games. Coding, level design, 2D/3D graphics, concept art, project management, quality assurance, music or sound effects etc. The most important thing is to be really good at something. I specialise in project management (close to getting a masters degree) and level design in my job. There are specialised schools that can teach you these things.
     
    #8 Scurvy Lobster, Jan 6, 2008
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2008
  9. Sybixsus

    Original Member

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    Not unless you're the boss and have about 20 years of industry experience behind you, no.

    Yes, but you don't just apply for a job as a designer. Designers are people who did all the other jobs on their way up the ladder. If you don't have another area of skill, then get one, it's as simple as that. Back ten years you might have been able to get in as a tester and work your way up doing all sorts of bits and pieces of marketing and motion capture, and lord knows what else, but the games industry is too big for that now. Most of that stuff has been outsourced to specialist middleware companies.
     
  10. andrew

    andrew New Member

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    It seems like you want a job as a systems designer. The thing is, at most companies those types of people are a) extremely good at what they do, and b) extremely rare.

    The game industry is overwhelmed with "idea guys", and unfortunately many programmers, artists, even musicians are just as capable of design work as many of the "idea guys". 99% of "idea guys" have designs that sound great on paper but fail (or are incomplete) when someone tries to execute them. Expecting other people to do the actual hard work to implement your idea is foolish, considering that it might take them hundreds or thousands of times the effort to implement your idea than you spent on creating it in the first place.

    Typically in the "real world" systems designers often have dual roles, either in management, doc writing/maintenance, or production.

    Also, your comment about beta testers doing balance is off the mark. At many AAA companies, the main systems designer is expected to get the balance approximately correct before handing it off to testers. A tester might say "X is overpowered" but they can't come up with a high-level picture of how things need to be fixed. They aren't going to rewrite your armor class balancing algorithm for you, that's your job.

    - andrew
     
  11. lennard

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Interestingly our boys have started to program in GameMaker. They are 12 & 14. Their problem is that they don't know what game to make so, today, I gave them an idea that has been percolating for a year and which won't get made by me for at least a year - maybe two or three at the rate things are going. They are now making that game - if it turns out well they can fund college for themselves.

    So, amusingly enough, I listened to a fairly detailed programmers meeting at the supper table as they sorted out an algorithm for deciding whether a castle has been completed or not. At my house, I'm now the idea guy.
     
  12. Coyote

    Indie Author

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    Sure. Along with creating the documentation and spreadsheet data for the same, a complete list of assets required (weapon models, special effects, animations, sound effects, sprites, etc.), working with the producer to calculate the time estimates for all of the components, as well as risk assessment and changes to reduce scope to make it something that can be completed by the dev team before the heat-death of the sun.

    And that's maybe three days' worth of work. What are you going to do with the rest of your week?

    But yeah - what everyone else here says. A designer can create something in a week that would take a full design team three months to implement. Which basically means there's not a lot of room for someone who just sits in an ivory tower and comes up with "designs." Now, if you are also a LEVEL DESIGNER, and are doing both high-level design work, maybe writes some dialog, and can actually put your butt in a chair and crank our real honest-to-goodness quality content for a game... well, then you may have yourself a practical and in-demand skill.
     
  13. Nikos Beck

    Nikos Beck New Member

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    Thanks SAAj for asking the question thoughtfully and accepting constructive criticism. Quite often the forum sees very inexperienced people asking the question poorly and responding angrily to constructive criticism.
     
  14. Spore Man

    Indie Author

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    Absolutely not! It is the role of the lead game designer and possibly the juniors under him/her to come up with these values, not the testers!

    No, you also need to design everything else.

    These days the triple AAA developers have a Lead Designer with years and years of hands-on experience, and under him/her "game designers" who take care of scripting out character and object placements, motion paths, "puzzles", etc, etc. It's a lot of work and requires some experience with lots of disciplines.

    It's NOT unheard of for some people to get into Game Designer roles without programming or art background, but they need background from somewhere. (Friend of mine for example climbed the ranks as associate producer, and at some point was able to shift over into pure game design. Took MANY years (10+ I believe))
     
  15. jcottier

    jcottier New Member

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    Young Industry

    Usually it doesn't take that long. It is not uncommon for a tester to be move into Production or Design department.

    This is just showing how young and amateurish our industry is. Do you know any other industry were you could move from a department to a completely unrelated one? If you think about it, it is almost like the guy in the airport loading the luggage being ranked as co-pilot.

    This is less and less truth though. There are schools now, where you learn design/art/and programming. The game industry is becoming more and more compartmented (that's crap but completely normal, as the industry is becoming more mature).

    In few years, it will be even harder to climb the ladder. Or you will climb it in your own department. Not moving into a different one.

    JC
     
  16. Sysiphus

    Original Member

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    yep, all is getting too much specialty heavy, it's taking those big corporation structures (well, one always worked in weak small companies, where the feel of adventure may be higher, but also is harder, unstable and dangerous) with lots of intermediate people, more non efective matters and groups, coordination problems, bad decissions, bad conection problems...I guess I left in the right moment ;) (some time ago). I the art side, too much mocap cleaning , 3d scanning, or these latest stuff of videotracing, would have make me sick sooner or later, I suppose.
     
  17. SAAj

    SAAj New Member

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    Mr. Lobster, thank you for pointing out moddb.com; I think I've found my calling.

    Well...it looks like I'm gonna have to roll up my sleeves and actually do something. I suppose the key is to contribute enough real, tangible work into a project that they let me drag in all my theories and ideas? Let's say I specialize in industrial/environmental design (for example, city planning). Would that translate well enough into level design?
     
  18. Coyote

    Indie Author

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    Not that I'm aware of.

    My best advice would be to start with a favorite game that is easily modded, and mod the crap out of it. It's a pretty good way to learn, and a lot of companies hire their talent from people who have done just that.

    Or make indie games. But I'm biased that way. :)
     
  19. ChrisP

    Indie Author

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    Level design is heavily entwined with the broader gameplay design. It's not just about making spaces that look pretty and realistic; it has to play well, and which levels play well is heavily dependent on the game itself. e.g. You couldn't take even the most well-designed Unreal Tournament deathmatch map and drop it into Thief while still expecting it to play well. So I wouldn't expect that a background in other forms of design would give you much advantage.

    On the other hand, modding is indeed a great way to learn about level design, and game development in general.
     
  20. Greg Miller

    Greg Miller New Member

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    It hasn't really been all that unusual at any company I've ever worked for, regardless of industry.
     

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