News: Average User has no Concept of How Much Game Dev Costs

Recently, some clueless joe on Twitter said he will pay 10,000$ to the person who adds a multiplayer aspect to Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If he was going to donate to a modder who was working on it, that would have been fine but it seems like he was thinking that he could hire someone to do something like that for that kind of money.

Here is a long, detailed response to this which you should read but here’s the summary: 10,000$ would pay for about two work months of the average+ programmer. Also, networking is hard. The hardest networking challenges in gaming usually arise in fighting games because they usually need to be exactly per pixel and per frame accurate and, probably over distances where network traffic takes more time to go back and forth than it takes pro players twitch reflexes to react. You can see how important this is if you go back and read about the network woes of Street Fighter V.

Now, the demands of a PvE, open world, action RPG would probably be a lot less strict but these are still difficult problems. Especially if you’re talking about tacking on something like this onto a game that was definitely not designed for it.

You want a more current example? On the one hand, Battlefield 2042 is out now and it’s buggy as hell. On the other hand, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is also out and it’s much better. Probably because the team is backed and overseen by a very strict corporate overland. On the other other hand, Halo’s campaign will come out in a week but the Co-Op campaign will only come out in May 2022. MAY!!!

343 Industries have been working on the Halo games for over 10 years! They are backed by one of the biggest corporations in the world! [According to Wikipedia] They are 750 strong! And it’ll take them — yes, assuming they have more going on than just Halo Co-Op — five months from campaign release to co-op campaign release.

And some people think you can just add co-op mode on a massive game for 10,000$.


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Activision-Blizzard Proving Again That They Just Don’t Care

Activision Apologises and Removes ‘Insensitive’ Quran Pages from Call of Duty: Vanguard.

Seriously? I mean, really? I did my basic Arabic studies and I know that the Quran (like the Bible and the New Testament) is Islam’s holiest tome and they do take it very seriously with how you treat iconography. But even if you didn’t know that disrespecting the Quran would whip up Islamic people into some kind of rage, imagine what it would feel like to you (or your more religious friends/family members) if there were pages of your religious texts on the ground where everyone is expected to walk.

Or, because you’re one of the hugest game companies in the world who want to sell your games to as many people as possible, have some freaking sensitivity consultants.


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The Only Way Out is Through

Just keep going.


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Doggos: As Above So Below

Those are, in fact, the cutest couple of dogs in the world.

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Beautiful Sky

Saw this on my walk this morning. Just wanted to share. Have a good.


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Make time to loaf yourself

I use this Keto Almond Bread recipe with some modifications.

— SGHF, Eran


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Just wanted to let you know our dogs are cute floofs

— SGHF, Eran.


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Found this outside one day

Looks like James Bond hopped in for a visit.

That’s it for today.

— SGHF, Eran.


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Villains, bullies, dicks, and Hanlon’s Razor

I’ve recently read an article that was actually about work environment and building and maintaining a supportive team but one sentence struck me in a way that made me think about real life bullies and how villains are portrayed in media.

[…] Management expert and author Douglas W. Hubbard [in his] book The Failure of Risk Management: Why it’s Broken and How to Fix It [rewrote Hanlon’s Razor as]: “Never attribute to malice or stupidity that which can be explained by moderately rational individuals following incentives in a complex system of interactions.”

[…] not only are people’s actions rarely malicious, they’re most likely not about you at all. Malice is simply not a probable explanation for people’s actions, and it’s not reasonable to assume it is.

So, if you take that to the realm of story villains, the best ones are not just there to be an antagonist but would exist and do their thing even if the hero wasn’t there at all. A good villain is not about the hero. A good villain is only about themselves and what they want to achieve. Think about that when you craft your next villain for your story or game, either forwards as who they are, what’s their motivations and what incentives exist that they will follow down the wrong path; or backwards as what you need the villain to be and come up with the system of incentives that could put someone in that position.

But this same conversation got me thinking about bullies and generally dickish people. Because people in all walks of life just follow the incentives that fit their world view: the guy going into a particular field of work just because of the money or the people who cut you off on the highway who are probably stressed enough to get somewhere on time that they’re willing to take that risk because they have a baby on the way or they had a hard day at work and just really want to get home. The bullies who had such a stunted development that the only way they know how to express themselves or get any interaction is by hurting someone.

I’ve learned all of this by talking to professional people about my communication and social skills and it changed the way I think about people. I’m not saying it completely cured my misanthropy but now I try to think about that when someone annoys me: what happened to them in life or this week or this day that got them to that point? Because, I know that sometimes I get to that point too. It’s not fun and a system should be put in place to handle young bullies or hurtful children in a supportive and accepting way. A competent adult that breaks a law should be punished because they know what they did. A child who hurts someone should have someone to talk to about the troubles that brought them there.

In Marvel’s What If, episode 2 (spoiler warning), we see Thanos as part of T’Challa’s crew and he says that they talked about his plan and found a way to fix the problem that doesn’t result in wiping out half the universe. It’s amusing in the moment but it also make sense if you think about it. A villain usually becomes a villain because their goal, that they think is just is unachievable through normal means (and fixing societal ailments is usually very hard and is heavily opposed) but they have the drive, the ambition, and the dire need to get it done so they break societal norms and go off the rails to do it. But if the heroes could focus on finding the root of the issue and pushing the fix through normal means, maybe the whole ‘boss battle’ thing can be avoided?

P.S. Small comfort: If you have a bully in your life and they seem fixated on you then they are making it about you. They are playing an antagonist role, an NPC, in your story. You could use that to your advantage.


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Bloodhunt, Battle Royals, and Onboarding

I want to talk a bit about Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodhunt.

Let’s put aside for now the fact that this game tries to take Vampire: The Masquerade, a deeply dramatic, gothic horror RPG that deals much more with social interactions and tries to make it about vampires shooting other vampires with exploding crossbow bolts. What I want to talk about is onboarding.

Battle Royale focused games are very popular right now. Such games are always on the top spots of Twitch’s most popular directory. The problem is usually with the new ones. Every once in a while, a new one comes out and very few of them actually penetrate and even fewer dethrone the big players, even if just a little bit. And I think it’s rarely about the theme, even more rarely about the mechanics. I think it’s mostly about the onboarding.

What do I mean by onboarding? For those not fluent with the lingo, onboarding is “the action or process of […] familiarizing a new customer or client with one’s products or services.” In more plain language, a game’s onboarding is the experience a new player gets when they install and run the game for the first time. It’s the main menu, it’s the tutorial, it’s the first 10 minutes to the first few hours of the game. If you’re a known popular developer, you usually get the latter but, if not, you get the former as the time you have to convince players to actually play your game.

This is especially important when the game is free to play. This makes your game easy to get into but also easy to leave. If it’s premium game and you got a player bought in, they already paid money for it, no matter how they got there, and so they will be determined, at first, to get their money’s worth. But, with Fortnite leading the pack, it’s hard to get people invested in a premium BR.

Which is all to say that onboarding is important. That’s the general sentiment. What is it specifically about Battle Royales? I’m getting to it now.

Let’s say you’re a game studio developing a new Battle Royale. You’re getting into a red ocean market, a market that is big and wide but also saturated with a lot of other players in the space. Competition will be hard. So, who is your target audience? Most likely players of other Battle Royales or similar games. While it is often the case that a player will pick the BR they like and stick to it, it is not unlikely that players might like several of them for different reasons at the same time or try a new one to see if they should switch. That is where you should fit in. You should entice them with new mechanics, a new interesting theme, or doing the same thing significantly better with better quality of life. That’s your hard battle.

But your customer-base is also other players of the same genre, and even random players who might want to pick up a new, cool-looking free game. So, your job might also be: How do I convince a random person to play my game? That’s where I come in. I’m not really into BRs but if a new game comes out that is good-looking, based on a known franchise, or just exciting to get into, I’ll definitely try it.

And you need to think about those people because, in a red ocean, it’s usually easier to make the playground bigger than try to steal what space is already occupied. That’s why I mentioned Bloodhunt. That game looks like it tried to meld the known tropes floating in the genre right now, lean more into the verticality seen in Hyper Scape and use The Masquerade’s vampire classes as sort of hero templates, but except using blood feeding as a boost or an upgrade, which isn’t a lot, this game did nothing new that I could see. I also think it was a great misstep to use V:TM as the theme because it’s about as different as you can be from a casual deathmatch; On top of regular ludo-narrative dissonance, this generates more narrative-narrative dissonance.

My guess is that they tried to pull in fans of the theme, gothic lovers, and general White Wolf enthusiasts (White Wolf being the owners of the V:TM franchise) but this game feels like a slap in the face to the reason why those same people enjoy White Wolf products in the first place. As a tabletop RPG, Vampire is one of the big differentiators from the pillar of the hobby, Dungeons & Dragons. In D&D you, basically, kill monsters to get gold and loot so you can get better at killing monsters, etc. but Vampire is the kind of game that says, ‘If you want less murder-hoboing and more deep, dark roleplaying, we’ve got you covered’. You can probably make a BR based on the D&D franchise but Vampire? It doesn’t jive.

In the end, this game feels like an afterthought of design with no real effort put into it, thematically and mechanically, except making it a good looking BR. And that, my friends, is not enough today.


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