Author Topic: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games  (Read 647 times)

Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« on: 11 Nov 2017, 22:56 »
I recently made a video discussing my worries about the sustainability regarding game development, using Cuphead and Brigador as examples. The main worries being the budgets of games, the health dangers of "crunch", and the lack of visibility for games leading to failure. I was wondering how prevalent these problems exist specifically in the Adventure Game Industry. I think I have a decent idea about visibility, where outside of a dedicated adventure game fanbase games are mostly hidden, except for the few times one can break into the mainstream. But how are the budgets and work environment for adventure games? If there are other issues that I didn't bring up, feel free to bring it up, I'd appreciate learning more about it.


KyriakosCH

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Re: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« Reply #1 on: 11 Nov 2017, 23:24 »
I am not sure if you mean the kind of games created with AGS (?). If so, i think that very very few got to be mainstream (if any?), but that is also due to the adventure as a genre. Usually the type of indie games which have some chance (again not much, but some, going by what has happened) of becoming widely known are some type of action-adventure. Eg 5 nights at Freddy's, which has simple and (i suppose) lifted up images as gfx, an interesting plot, and good atmosphere. Of actual adventure games that are indie and got somewhat known (and are AGS) there are some like Downfall, or the one with the girl and the cat and the demons (don't recall the name now, but it was a cool game :D edit: Fran Bow iirc!), or (more cult-like) the x days a stranger/sceptic etc.

Indie games that go "mainstream" tend to be brief, afaik. Although the ability to get Steam to market your game (even for a very small price) seems to be changing that. Anyway, there have been adventure games made with AGS which are (imo) very high quality. But i am not sure if i would term them as mainstream. Then again... how many non-indie adventures does one know which can be said to be mainstream? Even the likes of Gabriel Knight and Broken Sword mostly are cult-based, no?
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Re: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« Reply #2 on: 11 Nov 2017, 23:59 »
Ooops, sorry, when saying adventure games, I meant either adventure games in general or AGS games specifically. As for when I said mainstream, I may have been too broad and meant more like noticed by gaming community outside of dedicated adventure game players. Examples would be Wadjet Eye games, Kathy Rain(although that didn't do well from what I remember), and Thimbleweed Park(which had big names attached to it and still didn't do great from what I heard). They got press coverage from more gaming sites than others, but their success didn't seem to mirror that as much as one would think.

Mandle

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Re: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« Reply #3 on: 12 Nov 2017, 00:25 »
I think an important factor when it comes to indie adventure games, especially "retro" style ones, is that they tend to have "a long tail" as one of our own community who publishes games professionally put it.

The author/publisher is probably never going to see a massive boom of sales, maybe some peaks around release, during sale/bundle events, and if the game gets positive reviews on major sites. This is the downside.

But on the positive side the long tail means that sales will most likely continue at a reasonably steady pace basically for as long as the game is out there on the market. Major studio titles will have a huge boom at release which will drop off quickly as the game becomes technologically dated, is eclipsed by a better game, moves on to its sequel(s) etc.

"Retro" adventure games in particular will never suffer from becoming dated as they were made already dated and that is what the target audience is looking for. Indie games will always have a small but constant audience of people tired of the sameness of major titles and looking around for new and unique experiences.

Indie game developers are most likely never going to buy a new car or be able to quit their "day-job" off of the profits from a single game but the constant inflow of money from marketed games may gradually relax the financial pressure while creating future titles if they stick at it.
« Last Edit: 12 Nov 2017, 00:29 by Mandle »

Re: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« Reply #4 on: 12 Nov 2017, 04:39 »
I recently posted about pretty much this exact topic in the Adventure Gaming section of the RPG Codex.

My game "Neofeud" is (apparently) the one large-scale commercial game released this year using the AGS engine, and I've gone through the 2017 indie game wringer / Steam "200+ games per month flood" gauntlet, and these are basically my thoughts:

Quote
Thanks for the shoutout! (This is the creator of Neofeud) I have to agree that the 'Great Flood' of games has meant a bigger denominator splitting up the attention provided to each adventure game. Being a one-person developer myself, that has proved incredibly challenging. I like to joke that simply being a fiction writer is essentially a public display of delusional schizophrenia, in that you're inventing grand lies for hundreds of pages, flipping between personalities (characters) all day long, and then people shell out cash for your recorded insanity. Being a solo indie dev where you're jumping between writer, artist, programmer, musician all day is like that, but magnitudes worse!

But the hardest part, for me at least, has been the business and marketing hat. I literally spent eight hours or more every day for the last two months sending out press requests to over 1,000 websites, youtubers, streamers, bloggers, etc. as well as posting to social media, sites, etc.. A lot of the indie press' response has been, "We have a thousand indie games on our plate right now! But we'd love to get to you!" but there have been some articles such as this one on IndieGames.com.

Unfortunately, I believe that article there was the biggest media splash Neofeud has had yet. I have been throwing the kitchen sink and everything short of a demonic ritual sacrifice to get RPS to cover my game, and after several pitch attempts I doubt even WannaCry ransomeware could help me get a signal boost from PC Gamer. And it's fine. I understand.

Add to this the scourge on the indie and small-scale game landscape that is asset flipping, which has caused some players to be turned off to the entire Unity *engine*, let alone taking a chance on some small, as-yet-unknown indie point-and-click-adventure, and it's just made the already tough nut of a sustainable adventure game business an almost adamantium shell.

I absolutely have hope for the adventure game genre, though. I had essentially given up on not only game development, but games generally, around 2013. I had worked for a couple mobile game companies, and a retired Microsoft executive who moved to Hawaii to start a game company. (I'm from Hawaii -- fun fact, unlike most mid-life crises which involve splurging on Lambos, when Silicon Valley types see a grey hair, they move to Hawaii and start a game company.) Unfortunately, making The Next Flappy Bird, or working on the next Texas Hold'em, where the biggest creative input we had was, "Do you think Suicide Jack's knife would look better in the left ear, this version?" along with the backstabbing and layoffs that came when the LA big fish came down and hostile mergerized the place put me off game dev for a long time.

But then, sometime around 2013, having resigned to teaching*, office drudgery, and possibly aspiring to be a programmer of high-frequency trading algorithms for Goldman Sachs or automating away blue-collar jobs to inspire Trump voters, I played a game called Primordia. It blew my frickin' mind open. And then I read that it was created essentially 'on the side' by three guys, and the bits of neural tissue and skull that was left of my mind, also exploded. I said, "You know what? If three guys can do this in their spare time, I bet one guy/gal could do it all if they set their mind to it." So I went down to part-time at the dayjob(s), and cut a deal with my wife to give me a good year and a half to take one good shot at a commercial indie game company, and got to working 12 hours a day. As an aside, my #1 tip for any aspiring indie developer is to marry a Canadian, because anyone else will divorce your sorry ass when you tell them you're going to go make video games for a living. :)

I will say, hands down, the best games I have played in the last two decades have come from teams of ten or less, and often one. All the Wadjet Eye titles, Primordia. I don't know how many were on West of Loating exactly, but I'm guessing not a lot. This is my opinion, of course, and though I actually started out in the 3D FPS and 'immersive sim' space (my biggest project before Neofeud was a Deus Ex 1 mod called Terminus Machina), I am now a die-hard adventure lover.

It has been absolutely a tough gig, trying to get visibility as a small fish, but you know what? I wouldn't trade indie dev for ten million dollars and tech lead at any AAA studio or almost any other job. I've worked in corporate / government monstrosities -- I actually made an entire game about it called Neofeud, hah! -- and I can tell you, even just having made the rent money** with revenue thus far from Neofeud, I have never been happier in my life. I have met the most amazing, dedicated, passionate people in the adventure game and indie world. I feel constantly supported and loved, rather than soul-destroyed and filled with self-loathing, that I was at the former places. I would be happy to make enough from gamedev to pay for a roof, food, and maybe get some brakepads for my squeaing 1994 Toyota, but all the rest of the money I would be throwing back into paying other creative and passionate folks to join me in a small team, and funding other indie projects.

Because I don't want to live in a world that is filled only with toxic military-industrial complex propaganda FPS's, asset flips, infotainment, 50 Shades of Grey, et. al..

There are so, so, so many games coming out right now, and it's indietopia... and it's also a nightmare to sort through. Steam doing away with Greenlight and adding Direct was a good move. But ultimately I feel it's up to these global networks of passionate creators and fans to boost the signals of these countless hidden gems. They are out there, I swear, so many of them, it is just a matter of finding*** them and helping them be found.

I am absolutely hopeful.


*Teaching has been immensely rewarding, and I continue to do it. Doubly so, as I was teaching 'at-risk' youth in the inner-city where I lived, who really needed it. I do still continue to teach, I help home-school my two kids along with Mrs. Silver Spook, and provide a STEM / robotics education guru of sorts to families in the community where I live. If anyone is considering it, it is highly, highly recommended.

**I am also freelance writing on the side to make a little extra cash right now, and trying to grow some food on our little homestead out here!

***To that effect: immediately go and check out The Journey Down 3!

With a brief addendum, given a month and a half more hindsight: I do believe that creating a sustainable, financially viable studio is quite, quite difficult, even if you have a high quality indie game. I recently spoke with Mark Yohalem of Primordia, and he has a good point that there are indie games coming out nowadays on par or surpassing Primordia on platforms like Steam at an astonishing rate, unlike 2012 when you could count Greenlit releases on two hands each month, let alone adventures. Mark is also correct that making enough money to sustain interest is one thing, but there are a lot of great indie games being released with literally less than a dozen *purchases*. Even if you're not worried about financial viability, if no one is playing your games, it can be difficult to continue shouting out into the darkness.

The competition is just extremely fierce, and in my opinion, the onus is now on creators to really build their own brands, or hire someone to do so, have network / premier Twitch/Youtuber connections to find and cultivate those markets. The game (no pun intended) is changing at lightning fast speeds, nowadays, both on the indie and the AAA scene.

I also have two separate interviews with Wadjet Eye Games' Primordia and Technobabylon creators respectively, and this topic is hit on, with a variety of insights, in both podcasts:



« Last Edit: 12 Nov 2017, 04:58 by SilverSpook »

Mandle

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Re: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« Reply #5 on: 12 Nov 2017, 10:32 »
SilverSpook: I read your whole post but haven't watched the videos.

Your post was very inspiring and yet very much grounded in the real world.

The paragraph that grabbed me was:

Quote
It has been absolutely a tough gig, trying to get visibility as a small fish, but you know what? I wouldn't trade indie dev for ten million dollars and tech lead at any AAA studio or almost any other job. I've worked in corporate / government monstrosities -- I actually made an entire game about it called Neofeud, hah! -- and I can tell you, even just having made the rent money** with revenue thus far from Neofeud, I have never been happier in my life. I have met the most amazing, dedicated, passionate people in the adventure game and indie world. I feel constantly supported and loved, rather than soul-destroyed and filled with self-loathing, that I was at the former places. I would be happy to make enough from gamedev to pay for a roof, food, and maybe get some brakepads for my squeaing 1994 Toyota, but all the rest of the money I would be throwing back into paying other creative and passionate folks to join me in a small team, and funding other indie projects.

I'm actually intrigued enough in the underlined portion to be interested in potential future projects with you (and/or your team) over the next few years.

Re: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« Reply #6 on: 12 Nov 2017, 12:46 »
It was an interesting video, Umbrella terms, and your post was an interesting read, SilverSpook!

As someone living in Sweden, I've heard several people debate that one of the big reasons that Sweden has such a thriving game industry is because of the countrys strong social security net. Basically, if people know they have a safety net to fall back on, they are more willing to take risks such as starting a new company or begin a project that might not be an immediate commercial success. University education is also free, which means that many young people are able to study game design in different universities, rather than being limited by what they can afford or which educations their parents are willing to pay for.

I'm currently studying game development with a focus on graphics while making adventure games in my spare time, and it's thanks to the current system in place.
Still, having no budget at all also means that I haven't been able to market my games, and even the most popular game I made have been downloaded less than a 1000 times.

Re: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« Reply #7 on: 12 Nov 2017, 20:23 »
@Blondbraid: Yeah, the social safety net would be great. Unfortunately I'm from cyberpunk dystopian US where the safety net is being thrown into the gutter, college education is insanely expensive and a new form of mass-slavery / peonage / wealth confiscation, and you need to work three jobs to live beyond a subsistence level. The people who take risks in the US are those who have rich parents or trust funds to fall back on.

We were living basically in a closet, and were literally homeless for a period of time during the development of Neofeud, and I was working another job the entire time.


I'm actually intrigued enough in the underlined portion to be interested in potential future projects with you (and/or your team) over the next few years.

Thanks for soldiering through that novella of a post! :D Unfortunately I'm not quite at the Gabe Newell, nerd-baller level of revenue, so I can't yet shell out cash to indie devs, but I am certainly trying with all my might. I will keep you in mind for the future, though!

This may be slightly off-topic, but on the 'we indies need to stick together' / networking note; I am currently trying to port Neofeud to Mac, and if anyone has done that, I'd be interested in talking. Perhaps in message so as not to clutter this thread. :)
« Last Edit: 12 Nov 2017, 20:43 by SilverSpook »

Re: Costs of Game Development in Adventure Games
« Reply #8 on: 13 Nov 2017, 00:11 »
@SilverSpook: That was a really great read! I learned a lot about the difficulties developing and releasing an indie game. I'm glad that you are able to find joy in it despite the struggles it brought. I haven't listened to the the podcasts yet, but planning on it when I get the time.

@Blondbraid: I always heard about Sweden's social security net being a reason why game development can thrive there, but never knew how extensive it was. As a college student in the US, the ability to study at many different universities there was a surprise to me, as here finances dictate your opportunities. Hearing you describe it, it sounds like a utopia compared to the situation in the US, although there is still difficulties such as marketing games. Makes me dream about something similar being implemented in the US, but very unlikely with the current political climate.