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Weekly Links #239: gaming business edition


Have you ever wondered why so many game studios close right after releasing successful games?

Because that way investors can pocket every last penny from sales as profit, since they no longer have to keep the lights on and people in the office. Yep, nowadays not only products are disposable, but the people who make them, too. When it's time to make another game, they can hire anew and even get the props for "creating jobs". Preferably filled with inexperienced kids who are still enthusiastic, energetic... and easy to bully into working impossible hours.

In case you were wondering why even expensive games come out full of bugs, with glaring performance and design issues, that's the reason. That and the absurd development schedules, because games are still being made in the same amount of time as ten or twenty years ago, but take many times more work. And increasing team sizes only goes so far.

Who cares, players can update their games online nowadays... for hours... every time they want to play for, like, fifteen minutes before bed. They're unhappy? Who cares, we already have their money. It's just good business.

Oh wait, didn't we just fire the team that was supposed to code those updates?

Enjoy your half a broken game, valued customer.

I didn't link to any write-up about the Telltale Games debacle in my previous newsletter, for a number of reasons. But as things keep getting worse, Eurogames hits the nail on the head (as Konstantinos Dimopoulos points out):

When did we forget people - not brands - make games? When did the fate of corporate logos become a bigger deal than the fate of the people who crunched to make those logos mean something? When did the fate of video game characters become more important than the fate of video game developers?

In case you've been hiding under a rock these days, and I couldn't blame you for it, this comes after the company that just fired 250 people with 30 minutes notice announced that it will pay other people entirely to finish what the newly unemployed would have very much liked to finish themselves (and not starve or end up in the streets). And then only due to fan outcry. Oops.

Never mind humanity. Never mind the evils of capitalism. Pray tell me, in which parallel universe does this make a lick of financial sense?

But then, I was already pointing out years ago that corporations have more money than they know what to do with by now. For a while, it was at least about control instead: unproductive, but understandable. Now the alien logic of big business no longer makes sense to mere mortals at all. Enjoy the results.

Das Geisterschiff is an intriguing game: an old-school dungeon crawler largely inspired by the Wizardry series, except with a cyberpunk theme and pseudo-wireframe aesthetics made to resemble the Virtual Boy. After recently releasing the full version after several years (though work is ongoing), its creator took the time to write about the game's inspirations and design. Also finding an audience for this sort of game in 2018, which is ironic considering I'm not part of it. Being privy to the game's final months of development however, I couldn't help but appreciate the passion and attention to detail. As both are vital ingredients to any good game, do give it a read. And if Das Geisterschiff isn't your cup of tea, at least make sure to get the soundtrack. Trust me on that.

The last big news item for the week is arguably off-topic, but hear me out. After many years in development, Haiku OS is finally released in a version usable by the general public. Don't let the beta label fool you, this is probably safe for day to day use. And do you know what this means? Opportunity! Because people are going to want games, and the current line-up is pretty thin, more essential software having taken priority. For now, web games, DOS games and ZX Spectrum games should run out of the box, along with anything supported by ScummVM. But Haiku comes with all the GNU development tools, and some of its own as well, for good measure. So if you have the time and hardware to spare, do give it a try. It's a clean, elegant operating system that runs with a pleasant smoothness even on old machines, and combines a friendly user interface with internals that should please anyone coming from Linux or Mac.

I haven't been able to install it yet, for lack of a spare computer, and what little one can glean from a live DVD session doesn't say much, so take this with a grain of salt. Promise to tell you more as soon as I can.

On this note, here's to hoping for a better coming week. See you around.