John Passfield's Games Musing #5

Just linking to John Passfield's latest games musing #5, as I'd like to hear some discussion on it here from you guys, and if anyone from the industry/media wants to chime in some comments from their perspective, that would be great also!

http://www.users.bigpond.com/jaruu/games/

(collecting my thoughts and writing my comment atm [:)])

Daemin's picture

Was just wondering this morning, if we at Sumea could interview a few Australian Game Development places and post it up on the web?

Red 5's picture

I think the problem stems from Aussie developers waiting around to be asked for an interview. If you want to promote your business it's in your own best interest to take the initiative and approach the media yourself, whether it be magazines, online sites, newspapers etc... it's very easy and most will ablige even if they're based overseas, and the best part is it's free advertising.

Daemin's picture

Well there's not much point in having an interview if you have nothing to say or show, eh?

Red 5's picture

True, but the games musing #5 refered to established Aussie developers not exposing themselves to the media, I'm sure they could think of something to say if they wanted to.

Blitz's picture

BUT, as was also noted in that musings, it is often that the developers can't talk about the project due to NDA's etc. with the publisher.
Any interview that goes along the lines of "Question 1: Blah. Answer: No comment" is going to be a bloody dull interview, and could cast a worse light on the developer than just not saying anything at all.
CYer, Blitz

Daemin's picture

As the saying goes: "It is preferable to be silent and thought of as a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."

souri's picture

I think John summed it up perfectly in a personal email that the majority of local press (web/magazines) and developers are just not communicating.

It requires the press to get off their butts, do some research on our industry, and actively probe for information. It simply isn't an excuse for them to "not know" that we have an industry, because you'd have to be living under a rock to think it doesn't exist here considering some of the world class titles that's come out locally. Those huge articles/developer diaries/double page magazine spreads on our games like Grand Prix Challenge, Transformers: Armada, Tribes: Vengeance etc that I've read from overseas magazines and websites should have come from our local press, damnit! I read an article on another website where they managed to get someone to write about their trip to Irrational Games's studio in Canberra. It was a *great* article, a terrific insight into the people and the working environment at Irrational Games, and it left me thinking why some website/magazine hadn't done that already here!. No need to fly someone a million miles by plane to another continent, and it would be such a GREAT way to inform and inspire those young game magazine buyers in Australia in local game development. Over a decade ago, I read in a UK magazine that there was a development outfit called GeeWhiz Entertainment from Queensland working on an amazing point and click graphic adventure game called "Flight of the Amazon Queen". It blew me away because I found out that people here were capable of doing world class games and making news, that there may be an industry here too and that I might have a future in it! I can't stress the importance of local media covering local developers. They've got a big role in inspiring young people.
I'd love for Sumea to have much, much, more articles on local game developers, but as you might already have known, I'm just one guy. The research into finding appropriate, interesting, and relevant questions, following up etc takes a bit of time. Put in my other duties like updating the site, replying to enquiries, adding new members, fixing up problems, website maintenance etc, and you can see I'm kinda overwhelmed at times. I have one article in the process which has lots of people to follow up, and it's an ongoing effort. I want to do an article on the AGDC 2003 winners, and boy, that's another big task there. So yeh, Daemin and anyone else, if you're up to the task of doing an article/interview on behalf of Sumea, I'm all for it!
Australian GamePro, having been at the AGDC with all those talented and experienced local developers around, should be slapped on their wrists for their article with Laura Fryer and Phil Harrison on Australian Game Development. That simply doesn't compute. If they did some journalistic probing, they'd know that the people running the GDAA, and the people who have been in the industry for decades like Adam Lancman, those who founded Krome and Micro Forte etc would be *perfect* candidates for such an article, and were probably mere metres away at times.

Now, we've got the local press out of the way, and seeing as communication goes both ways, developers have some work to do also. Developers have to send out frequent press releases, give out interviews, and make themselves more open and accessible to local press. That includes replying to emails. Sumea gets a few press releases now and then, but simply not enough. I've probably received a total of around 7 press releases since the site has been up, which isn't much considering the amount of developers we have. What's kinda depressing is that I've seen a fair few press releases on other overseas websites that I haven't received at all. Support your local press, developers! Make a web form so people can subscribe to your press releases, compile email addresses of pr/reporters from the local press and send news to every one on that list when there's something to report.
Yes, there are contracts, NDA's and what not, but that's no reason to be completely silent! There are a fair few local developers where we just simply don't know what's going on there, and they've been around for years. No website updates, no news reports, nothing.
I'm sure there are plenty of ways to communicate to the public. Contribute to forums with your knowledge on the industry, write some "how to" guides, share some of that know how around! Interviews don't have to cover game specific information. There's plenty of things they can talk about. Press have to adjust their questions to other interesting topics. How did you get into the industry, post mortems on previous games, opinions on industry matters etc... Just write anything! Developers, you have a role in inspiring the young into the industry as well! It's all free advertising so should be seen as valuable for the company. For everything a developer posts (articles, news, forum post), it informs the rest of us about your company, and hey, it gets word out on the industry as well.

Ok, I've re-read Johns article again, and I seem to be re-iterating a lot of his points, so I better stop now before I become too redundant [:)]

BTW, publishers preventing developers to talk about their games - it just seems so counter-constructive and stupid. They should definately take a leaf out of Vivendi Universal and Irrational Games's book. Tribes: Vengeance has been really well covered, and the fans love it. It's a gradual release of information, and it'll make that long wait till late 2004 seem a breeze. Developer diaries, Fansite kits, progress reports etc. Heck, who doesn't know about Tribes: Vengeance??? Contrast this to Microsoft and Citizen Zero, where a lot of the fans are a pretty angry and bitter lot. Sure publishers want to protect their investments, but what game/story idea, technology information, bit of concept/in-game art in the past few years was bitterly worth silencing the developer for anwyay...

DaMunkee's picture

A few key points were made in the article and I would like to comment/offer suggestions on a few. Of course, every suggestion involves some amount of money (however small) so unfortunately, that may mean nothing will come of it :(

?The Publisher won?t allow us to talk about the project?
Is that all that being a game developer is about? ?Publisher X signed us for title Y, sorry we can?t tell you what title Y is, maybe in a year or two.? Unfortunately to survive, it?s often best not to piss off your publisher. So a solution could be something like this. Krome has 110 employees. I?m guessing, a vast majority of those are from Australia. As was proven by the series ?Australian Idol? not to long ago, Australians love their ?home town heros.? (A huge + for the Australian culture by the way). So build off of that. 110 Employees at Krome alone equals 110 ?True Blue Features of the Week.? Whether it?s a column on a website(company or fan), or a panel in a magazine, start ?getting to know? your neighbors. Each Individual has an instant fan base typically that starts off as their family or school buddies, but admiration/proudness has the ability to spread news like wildfire. Plus, John Doe from Perth reads that Joe Programmer from Freo is working at Krome, hey, John Doe now has a common thread with Joe. This common thread is all John needed to prove to him that even being on the other side of the country from what seems like the gaming centers, like Joe, I too, could get a job! Excitement grows?

So, in terms of a news blackout due to publishers? Work around it, start sowing the seeds of the industry.

?Money, time is money, and time is something we seldom have?
Company X has 10 employees. Company X needs to make this milestone otherwise Company X will have Zero Employees. How can company X free up resources to communicate to magazines/websites on what their doing, or info about their employees. This is a difficult situation indeed. Even the best intentions of maintaining contact with the community can be over looked when you?re pulling long hours.

A solution: Game Developers Association of Australia. Last year at E3, the GDAA handed out fantastic booklets. In them listed almost every game company in Oz and it provided a good summery about them as well. Talk about a fantastic way of combining forces to help the collective as oppose to the individual. How about they take it a step further. Picture this, A committee is formed whose sole responsibilities is to disseminate information. A single point of contact if you will. Company X signs a new contract, the Project manager sends an email over to Bob at the GDAA ?Hey Bob, we did it! Take2squared interactive signed us for a new project!? Bob turns around and writes up a blurb that gets sent to his ?global email list? that contains fan sites, publishers, etc. Company X has succeeded in getting the word out with minimal impact on their Time.

For the most part, the game industry getting the word out seems to be working. I mean, if not, you wouldn?t have the Game courses in so many places like you do now. But with a little help, the word could be spreading quicker. After all, Australia only has 20 million people, you are more likely to know someone or know someone who knows someone who works in the industry there, then you would in any other game developing country.

Well, that was long [:)]

Chris

Gazunta's picture

110 articles about the 110 Kromans?

Trust me, most aren't worth the mention ;)

In the TY 2 developer diary in Official Australian Xbox Magazine (which *cough* getsnomentioninsumeaatallever *cough*) about 3 or 4 Kromans are featured at once, talking about what they're doing on the game. There'll be a new one soon (honest Kevin! It's good!).

No magazine is going to want to run 110 seperate articles about what is basically the same subject...

Maybe kromestudios.com could set up a "Kroman of the day" feature or something. Randomly rotate an employee profile...

And about Company X signing a contract with Company Y...it's never, ever, ever Company's X's call to make it known to the public. It's not the GDAA's call, either. Signing a game with Take 2 (or whoever) doesn't mean we have the right to tell people about it. Sometimes the publisher will not want it known that you're working on the game for various reasons (exclusivity deals with other developers, waiting for a big announcement at e3, publishing the game on platforms that haven't even been announced yet, for example)

I'm not trying to downplay your suggestions....keep them coming! We need to sort this problem out! I'm just trying to illustrate some of the realities we have to deal with.

souri's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Gazunta

In the TY 2 developer diary in Official Australian Xbox Magazine (which *cough* getsnomentioninsumeaatallever *cough*) about 3 or 4 Kromans are featured at once

Anyone can submit news to the site [url="http://www.sumea.com.au/submitnews.asp"]through this form[/url]. If anyone finds local developer related news, then you're the perfect candidate to report it. It's pretty unreasonable to expect me to find everything out there, especially from a magazine I don't buy for a console I don't even own.

Gazunta's picture

Sorry Souri, I didn't mean that as an attack on your news gathering abilities (which are mighty, fearsome, and make mortal men tremble in fear). :)

I was just illustrating my point - I post here often, I work for Krome hell I even wrote the article and I still didn't post it as news! Good grief, I suck!

DaMunkee's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Gazunta

I'm not trying to downplay your suggestions....keep them coming! We need to sort this problem out! I'm just trying to illustrate some of the realities we have to deal with.

Haha, I think maybe my suggestions were taken to literally. I'm mearly stating that in order to harbor a good relation to the community, you have to connect with that community. If a company agrees to a press blackout agreement about a title, then the company needs to come up with some other ways of relating to the community. For most decent sized game companies, they have a community manager who's sole job is that. When I mentioned the GDAA, I was suggesting that those companies who don't have the resources for a community manager, to band together in order to help out the group as oppose to doing little or nothing at all.

Oh, and your comment about "it's never, ever, ever Company's X's call to make it known to the public." Yeah, I kind of disagree with that. It is always Company's X's call to do whatever it wants! Last I checked an agreement required the signiture of both companies involved. If a company truly wants something (and I'm not talking just in this scope) there is always a way to get it. The problem is, companies feel, especially newer, younger companies, that they need to please the publishers in every respect. Unfortunatly, they do not realize that without these developers, the publishers are nothing. Who makes the games?

All it takes is communication between the developers and changes in the industry can take place. Sure this is easier said then done, but the point is, it can be done! Can you imagine if all of the developers in Australia united for a common goal? (My personal favorite reason being "No we will not put in 100 hour work weeks! We will make sure the quality of the games is there taking the time, within reason of course) There is a beginning of this in Australia with the GDAA, take it a step further and you will be surprised at all that could be accomplished.

Heh, I guess I just want to see Australian game developers not get trapped in the same misconceptions as the US ones are currently living in.

souri's picture

A game developer worker union? [:)]