Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We're Old.

I'm old. Gamers are getting old. Developers are getting old. We're no longer in the realm of the grey-bearded big-iron mainframe developers vs. the cowboy CS-kid desktop developers. The legends of the DooM generation are getting older: Carmack, Wright, Spector - hell, even Gabe and Tycho are middle-aged with families. It blows my freaking mind.

Warren Spector published a quartet of articles in The Escapist about the where the industry is headed. In one instance it seems to be the shadow of big companies getting ready to smash independent developers into a gooey paste, in another he talks about how innovation and independence can spell the industry's salvation.

One particularly nostalgic (although that's not quite the word...) quote was

Maybe this is just a personal problem - a result of my friends and me getting older. Priorities change. Interests change. Time for games seems tougher to come by. Or maybe my values - notably a fascination with
innovation, novelty and forward progress on the story and design side of things - aren't shared by the folks who make up an increasingly international audience. Maybe it isn't games or the game business that have changed - maybe it's me.

Jeff Vogel voiced his opinion on straying outside the norm and how dangerous that can be for an independent developer. Wander too long off the beaten path and you may find it hard to get a lot of buyers on board. However, it could be that the trick is really in finding the right market to land in. Like he says:

There is nothing scarier that aiming at a market that doesn't exist yet. It might not exist at all.

It's like Warren spells out in his article...

GTA clones are making money hand over fist. All we have to do is keep making them until players tell us to stop.

So now gamers are getting older and getting families. Want to know the way to hit that demographic?
  • Load times should be in seconds and not minutes. I should hit an icon, here a few clicks of the hard drive and be able to pick up right where I left off. I'm tired of skipping through layers and layers of splash screens, logos, intro videos, copyright text, menus, etc.
  • If I log in to my machine, I should see my own savegames and restore my own convoluted settings. If someone else logs on to the same machine, they should have their own save points and key bindings. Linux has been doing this for years; how hard is it to write preferences to the user's home directory?
  • Make play controls so simple it's almost sophomoric. Carmack definitely had the right idea when he made the user interface limited to just a handful of keys... you don't need to bind the entire keyboard for a FPS.
  • Break things into digestible chunks. You should hit natural "breaking points" often... there's a good chance that you'll forget what the hell is going on in some long convoluted errand when you can only do ten minutes at a time.
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