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MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Songbearer posted:

During development, how often do you run into bugs or glitches that are so drat funny you're almost tempted to keep them in?
Glitches make for great videos at 4pm on a Friday.
I've seen green monstrosities with one set of legs but 24 torsos.
Characters with creepy inside out eyes.
NPCs get kicked in the crotch so hard they launch into the air.
But alas most of them are "bugs" that can't survive to launch.

But I have turned bugs into features before.
When trying to free a character from being stuck on the ground, I was adding enough rotation that it essentially became a ragdoll gyroscope.
It could balance on it's feet simply by being a meat tornado.
We kept the code and values to make this happen, and turned it into a comedy consumable instead.

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MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



SupSuper posted:

I'm not sure what's the right term for this, but why does the games industry seem to be so... fanatic?

For example, I'm a software dev, I work on all kinds of products I wouldn't use myself, I don't have any investment in them. I'm invested in my job and that's what I like. I doubt all the consumers and reviewers of various products have any deep attachments to them as well.
But in games everyone seems to be required to "drink the koolaid". To work in games you have to love games, to write about games you have to breathe games. Everyone is a gamer, whether they're developer, press, or customer, and that seems to encourage all kinds of bias and inner circles and what not.

Is it all just an act for marketing, a natural result of working on creative media, or something else?
This got covered, but the short answer is it increases iteration rate.
Just like other software, games get good through iteration.

In software dev, you might interact with the customer once a month. They'll give you feedback, you agree more work, you produce a new version, they review again.
In game dev, the developer is also the customer, because they are a gamer. That means that depending on how much faith you are willing to put in individual developers, you could see hundreds of iterations a DAY.

One of the greatest things is to give a team a problem, point them in the right direction, and then a couple of days later review it and they've solved it in a way you wouldn't have even though of because they just ran with it.
That wouldn't be possible if they weren't gamers. You'd get back the exactly solution you asked for, rather than a solution to the problem you identified.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Applesnots posted:

How do devs feel about the upswing of micro transactions in full priced AAA titles?
I am very utilitarian and free market about this. It varies with each implementation, and if players find one strategy distasteful and another acceptable then I would expect them to vote with their wallets.

A tonne of people will complain when, say, Destiny's latest DLC is another 40 bucks, but they will also buy it because they know it's worth it to them.

I appreciate that gamers want "the full game they paid for". The reality of the continued support is often that of the 10 new things that got added, you get 8 for free because they are charging people for the other 2. Without that, you would get nothing.

Also maybe I just haven't worked in a shop with huge profits, but I've rarely experienced it as "devs being greedy" over "this is how we are keeping the studio open and buying as much engineering time as possible on the next game to make it as awesome as we can".

Ultimately I believe that you will make the most money if you build a game and monetisation strategy that your players love and want to invest in. If you piss people off they will avoid your game, or even worse you as a developer.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



ninjewtsu posted:

Once you're working a position as a junior developer or low level art person or something, how easy is moving up in the ranks? If you have talent, does that generally get recognized and someone throws you a bone and puts you in a more important position later, or do you usually have to play office politics to get anywhere?
A bit of both in a sense.
"Talent" in this case is being able to do the job above you. What distinguishes a Junior Artist from a Senior or Lead?
It's more about being on top of things, and working as a team than it is about some raw talent.
Obviously people shouldn't be undermining anyone else or other process. But, if an Artist, say, started tracking the status of all their work in a spreadsheet. If they chase up reviews and are generally highly proactive about making the whole process slick. That's someone who i'd be thinking "ok, they are ready for more responsibility and ownership within the team".

However, that decision is still being made a person. They are going to have their biases, preferences, and constraints.
If you're in a small company, they can pretty much do what they want, so your personal relationship with them is probably a major factor in the promotion.
If you're in a huge company, there are probably heavily codified progression paths, and making sure that you help them tick the boxes to ok your promotion is important.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Latin Pheonix posted:

Funnily enough, I was going to ask something related to this.

There are people who feel that loot-boxes are becoming quasi-gambling and I was wondering if you or other devs have felt concern that there may be a point where authorities (fairly or unfairly) clamp down on the whole practice? Is there any concern that governments may start, for example, applying gambling laws to some games or bringing in new legislation to target games that sell lootboxes for real money or otherwise enable this quasi-gambling? If this were to happen, would you be worried about this reaching further than its intended targets and impacting the gaming industry as a whole?
There have already been moves into regulation.

Japan have outruled "kompugacha".
In "kompugacha" you would get, for example, the leg of a SUPER POWERFUL ROBOT out of the gacha. And you go "cool that's 1/6 of the parts!". And then you get the other leg. And the arms. And the chest.
But you need the head. And the head has a drop rate of one hundredth of the other parts.
It was considered a misleading business practice because the parts are useless in themselves, and your perception of the drop-rate of the last piece was being deliberately anchored away from reality.

China have ruled that gacha/loot boxes need to publish the drop rates in game.
That means that saying "Chance of 6* Super Rare!" has a bit less power because you can see that the chance is actually 0.01%

It's a matter of time before the US and Europe adopt similar policies.


People have blindspots around probability in general, and even with fair results would have messed up expectations.

Hypothetical example; an RPG has an AWESOME end-game Armor set consisting of 5 pieces. Each of these have an equal (but low) chance to drop from the big boss.
Given that it takes you a week of running it to get your first piece, how many more weeks before you have the complete set?

You might think the answer is "about four". But the average would be nearer 10.
It'd take you slightly over a week to get the next piece, but with each piece you get the odds of getting a piece you don't have get slimmer.
Getting the very last piece would take 5 weeks of grind.

That's deliberately shorn of any monetisation, but you could easily add, say, a microstransaction item that doubled the drop rate of that gear.
I know people get icky feelings when they start applying money to these things, but I think that time is as precious of a resource.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Perestroika posted:

That actually makes me wonder, to what degree are such things mathed out by the developers beforehand (let's say for non-monetised systems for simplicity's sake)? Is there some designer whose job it is to decide "We want X item to drop after an average of Y hours playtime" or "We want X% of players to see this happen during a single average playthrough", and who then sits down to calculate the appropriate distributions and plugs in those drop chances? Or is it more a matter of people plugging in some roughly estimated default value and then adjusting that based on playtesting?

The answer is probably "depends on the studio", but I guess with the huge role that randomisation takes in a whole lot of games some sort of industry standard might have developed.
I, personally, do that a lot. That's partly because in years of experience i've learned a lot of people REALLY don't get probability and so I do it myself, but you also hit upon a really dangerous word : AVERAGE.

"We want X item to drop after an average of Y hours playtime".
Lots of people will balance around ideas like this, but they forget this is the AVERAGE experience.
What does the game look like for the lucky 1%, and the unlucky 1%? The people at either end of that curve?

Someone gets X item after 10 minutes, and it utterly destroys the early game experience because it's brokenly good if you have it in the first 10 hours of the game.
Then you've got the die hard fan who has been playing for 2 years, every single night, and it still hasn't dropped! And every "yay gratz!" in Alliance chat for a person who has been playing for just a few months reopens the wound.

Probability is the nemesis of the player and the designer.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



There are a couple of frustrations as a dev when you support modding, one of which is that updates can often break mods.
If you take the attitude of "not my problem", a vocal minority of your player-base are suddenly super mad at you because v4.51 "broke" the game.
Alternatively, you try to make sure things are backwards compatible and support the mods which is the same as supporting a huge part of Not Your Codebase. That way madness lies.

The other bigger one is if people mod in features you have on your roadmap.
That puts you in an awkward situation for whether you carry on and build it anyway.
The reception could actually end up being negative because you are "ripping off" ideas from the mod, when in fact it was pencilled in as your big Q3 release anyway.

If you have a "Live Product", as games increasingly are, I can see why people would steer away from supporting mods because of these factors.
On the flip side, people innovating on top of your work is super cool, and can give a game a really long tail without you needing to do anything.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Also any Easter Egg code almost by definition hasn’t had QA. It could potentially cause huge problems in multiplayer as it might give people a codepath to just crashing everyone’s game.

There’s always room for fun delightful features in a game, but have process for it!

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



mutata posted:

Ideation is what I call the first steps and for large franchises it usually begins with the people in director level roles (creative director, art director, director, etc) getting together as a small team to just... decide. It's always been surreal to me that even the biggest AAA games begin with a few people just going "hey, we should totally do *thing*..." That said, it's never that simple, obviously. They'll gradually loop in people (usually senior roles) to help contribute or help communicate ideas (concept, writing, etc) and then comes multiple stages of approvals and check-ins with hire ups etc. This usually happens while a previous project is in deep production or wrapping up stages.
My model runs something like this...
The "pitch" or greenlight or whatever is building up to being able to answer 3 questions:
- Is this game worth being made
- Can this team make it
- Do the team want to make it

Genesis of games generally comes from one of already knowing the answer to one of those three, and most commonly the latter.
Someone goes "hey wouldn't it be cool if..." and people agree and then you do the work to answer the questions of whether that would bankrupt you or be a technical nightmare.
But sometimes it can come from other places.
It can be "man, a game like *this* would make sooo much money right now..." and then you find out if the team are psyched about making that and are capable of doing so.
Or even you just go "huh, if we made *thing* then you could actually build a game around that. That would be pretty sweet". And then you do. This is often the case with emergent tech like AR/VR where you realise what is technically possible first.

So really games can have their origins for a few different reasons, but in the most part i'd say it's because it's something someone is passionate about doing, and that's important.


(Where i've said "technically possible" it's the easy part of "can this team make it?". Depending on the game having the right artists or designers or even producers could be the critical failure point.)

MissMarple fucked around with this message at Nov 7, 2017 around 14:18

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Whether or not this is an indictment of the publishers using them, the important thing to understand is that those are not “extra”.

The game got green lit on the basis of the expected total revenue, against the expected total cost. Loot boxes, DLC, or other micro transactions are part of that.

Obviously players see it as “extra” because it is an extra purchase to them above the base game, but it was all part of the original forecast (there will be some exceptions where stuff gets bolted on later).

As such that money isn’t some extra cash lying around to divvy up, it’s recouping the costs of development as much as the $60 up front. Or, increasingly, supporting continued live content.

Overwatch’s committal to “every map and hero we add will be free” is paid for by loot boxes. As and when players wane from spending on them, Blizzard will either have to increase the efficiency of the content creation, or slow down it’s cadence, or find some new way to monetise.

Battlefront 2 has had a litany if executional errors in what they are trying to do. But I think that up front if you say “Ok we’re going to do Battlefront again but just better” that game doesn’t get made. If you add some additional revenue from micro transactions, and a long progression grind that means people are still playing when the DLC rolls around (and reduces second hand sales)... that’s a better business case. In a pitch, it de-risks some elements. The game players wanted to see would never have seen the light of day.

There’s a whole bunch of other underlying stuff there about how you are meant to, quarter by quarter, act in the interests of shareholders. Or how games are a hit driven business trying to be turned into a dependable industry. Or how expectations and costs are escalating year on year. But the tl;dr version is; fewer games are seen as viable without these models.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



People are bad at probabilities and odds. Even if you front face them in a game it will set weird expectations.

80% Chance to Hit? Can’t fail!
0.1% Chance to Drop? Might get lucky!

The job of the designer is to make it so people feel happy with the outcomes. If you understand people’s misunderstandings, you can be manipulative, but in a GOOD way.

Re: Game of War if you want the two most insidious things it does...
1/ The price of currency is up to 80% cheaper outside of the big events. Given that prolonged battles are basically “who had the biggest warchest”, this means that warring factions are basically silent bidding against each other. If you don’t spend more money than your opponent before the fight even starts, you’re going to be paying 5x the normal rate to make up the difference.
2/ The rate of inflation in the game is something like 20% a month. That means every offer is the best ever offer. It means all that stuff you invested in last month? It’s already lost value. There’s a new normal now. Even if you are paying, you can never stop because whatever you bought is redundant in no time at all.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Vavrek posted:

As well as exactly what the phrase "games as service" is intended to mean? [...] Is it a reference to more subscription-oriented (or other continuous-revenue) payment models, the idea of continuing development past the official release date, both, neither? And, of course, thoughts? Good/bad/weird/irrelevant?
Yes, broadly.
GaaS is the idea that the product you launch is just the start, and that there will be a continued development of both features and content when the game is "Live" with some parallel revenue stream to support that. You could make the argument the revenue stream isn't important; outlier titles like Minecraft or Angry Birds both became insanely popular in part because they just kept adding features at the same fixed price. That improves the value for people who haven't hit the button yet, as well as giving them confidence that buying into it is an investment in future development too, but most importantly keeps veterans of the game playing it for months and years (and therefore evangelising it to others).

The earliest adventure into the money side of this was actually the DLC or Expansion Pack; selling you another chunk of content for a one off fee.
MMOs moved into a Subscription model; where "Pay to Play" funded the game continuing to be live and have live content for it.

I'm wary of steering the conversation into "costs are rising! we have to make more money!". However, the two things that are happening more and more as part of GaaS is that companies are trying to improve efficiency in two areas. Content Creation, and Willingness to Pay.

We'll get the ickier one out the way first, which is Willingness to Pay. The short version is; every player has a different amount they are willing to pay for what you are offering. If you price it at $60, you miss out on the guy who would pay $30 (although he might get it later on Sale, or second hand). You also make less money out of the guy willing to pay $200. "Limited Editions" that have higher price points and come with in-game and physical extras (that cost less than the additional dollar price) were a way that Publishers began to optimise for this. As Publishers and Developers have tried to optimise for this more and more, you can end up with practices that feel like they "nickel and dime" a player because they are trying to get every last cent you are willing to give the game out of you. You also end up with some predatory systems that aim to get a bit more than you were strictly Willing to Pay, often by obfuscating value, or having random outcomes.

The simple fact is that if you put options to spend more money in front of your most devoted players, they will. This is largely necessary to fund the second part, which is Content Creation. Games planned to be a GaaS will often deliberately design themselves to have specific types of content that can be easily expanded on, often infinitely so. For example, having a basic customisation system that you can easily deliver new content to without needing a game update. Or perhaps Multiplayer was specifically designed and built to make it easy to develop new modes and modifiers. If done well, this can be a highly efficient way to continue to keep your game fresh and engaging. The lower you can get the cost of adding quality content, the less you need to fund it with monetisation. That's good for both the developer and the player.


Being very reductionist about it, gaming is a hobby. Some people choose to spend their free time on games. As with any hobby, people are willing to spend a reasonable amount on it.
The bigger the share of that time you earn from players, the more money they are willing to give you.
GaaS is one way Developers are optimising around gaining more share of that time.
The other way I think we're increasing seeing is games making bigger offerings. More hours of gameplay. More km of terrain to explore.
If you offer people 18 quintillion planets to explore, that's going to fulfil your hobby longer than one that offers 5, right?

MissMarple fucked around with this message at Dec 13, 2017 around 13:57

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



There’s also a huge chunk of programmers/QA going “what do you want to happen if they have zero of that/someone else does it at the same time/the player is on fire?”. You think you’re being specific until it needs implementation and then there’s a million edge cases you didn’t cover. Especially when interacting with other systems.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Just make all multiplayer games turn based affairs with no hidden information and server side RNG. Job done.

MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Gearman posted:

Just for the record, the only people making millions at Rockstar are Sam and Dan. Most of the developers make below industry average with bonuses putting them right around the industry average for total compensation. That's not even factoring in all the unpaid overtime.
Nuh uh it's going to sell like 10 million units at $60 each so each of the 600 devs will get $1,000,000 dollars this is how it works right?

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MissMarple
Aug 26, 2008



Also; ludonarrative dissonance is a bastard.

It's not just that you're getting railroaded, but that the actions in the core cycle of a lot of games make for characters that are hard to write for.
Take Tomb Raider. They present a victim character to us, but the reality of gameplay is that we left being the victim a long time ago, after we savagely murdered someone from behind for the 200th time. Lara is an aggressive psychopath. But Rise of the Tomb Raider won awards for it's writing.

DOOM is a great counter-example, where the narrative presents you as the boogeyman of Hell. A being of such destructive power that Demons are afraid of him. I'd argue that DOOM has "good writing" because it is aligned with the mechanics.
But you can't write every game as the player character being an elemental force of pure destruction and violence. Some games also deliberate subvert and comment on that dissonance, such as Spec Ops : The Line, being very clear that you are not a hero.

My personal opinion is games should be games first. Sometimes a great writer can encapsulate the mechanics that make it up into a pretense and narrative that fit. But the mechanics themselves tell the weight of the story, and should be given precedence. A lot of the time, those great mechanics come about because someone is trying to tell a particular kind of story, give the player a particular experience. In my eyes, being a great game maker is constructing a set of mechanics, as in something like Papers Please, which deliver that without having to use excessive prose.

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