Author Topic: Spiderweb Software founder defends reusing same engine and art for 10 years  (Read 4563 times)

Offline eRe4s3r

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http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-i-saved-gaming-industry-overnight.html

Needless to say, as graphics geek i do not agree. What he describes as a great reuse of art and engine, is what i describe as utter laziness. Because his engine is still far inferior to the Infinity engine. And that is the standard in RPG's. Maybe he never played these games? Reusing art is fine, not fixing your broken engine is not. And his engine is broken beyond repair - there is no item highlight, no intelligent pathfinding, no faux real-time battle system alá BG2 and company. His engine does NOTHING well. So his defense for not fixing it is what? That he is content with the current state of his engine? ;)

I completely agree with RPG Codex, he isn't selling 5 new games, he is selling 5 times the same game for full price. Heck these 5 games PLAY exactly the same, and games are not supposed to stagnate without improvement. Ergo, he is not making games, he is writing books and calls them games.
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Offline x4000

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Well, I've not played any of his games, and so can't comment one way or the other.  If there are serious bugs in the engine, as you say, then it's rather surprising that he would not want to do anything about those, at least gradually over time.  I do believe very much in asset reuse, and think his admonishments to the larger industry are pretty well correct.  Valve seems to know this with their engines (which they upgrade over time, and build many games on, and reuse assets between).  And I think Valve has the right way of it with that sort of reuse.  They make a variety of different and interesting games, and constantly improve the engine that's under all of them, etc. 

Here, the AI War engine grew out of the base of the Alden Ridge engine, and the Tidalis engine grew out of the AI War engine.  I think that sort of reuse is really important, partly because it lets us focus on just making the engine better and fixing bugs across all our various games at once, rather than piecemeal.  Valve seems to do much the same thing.

I can't speak to what Vogel is doing directly, and I'm not interested in criticizing other indies in general.  I can only speak to what he has written, and I think that the advice he is giving out is pretty sound.
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Offline ShadowOTE

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I think what's interesting is that his arguement is that he's selling the story, not the game. So he updates the older parts of the engine and adds/fixes anything he really needs to, then focuses on areas that he can compete with. Not having played his games, I can't say if that's correct or not, or if it really works, but since he's still in the black I'd say it does. Regardless, as long as the engine works and doesnt crash constantly or cause problems for him, there's nothing really wrong with what he's doing. And you'd be surprised how much refactoring code can do for a program in general. If changing the engine means relearning the tools, delaying releases, and costs more money than it brings in, then is it really worth it?

That said, nice graphics (even stylishly retro ones) are a good selling point.

Offline eRe4s3r

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Yes indeed it is sound to reuse art-assets (while updating them every now and then), but imagine you would be writing such a statement as he is, with AI War being graphically stuck in the pre 1.004 quality of graphics and effects while your forums are aflame with demands to finally fix/improve it for 10 years !

Just rubs me the wrong way i guess ^^

As for hes just adding what he needs. as having played Arcanum 5 and 6 i can assure you that not much about his stories changes or is even remotely as interesting or gripping as a single good book. In books you don't have to slug through a boring combat system with hidden values everywhere to boot.

Granted, that could be just me.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2010, 04:39:27 PM by eRe4s3r »
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Offline x4000

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Well, I won't comment on his practices specifically, but you know that I'm all about the constant improvement of every aspect of our games.  I was pointing out Valve because I think that they kind of embody what Vogel was advocating, but in a AAA manner and without the reservations that you have about Vogel.  Again, I don't know anything about Vogel and so can't comment (and wouldn't anyway), but I think what he is saying is sound (as it seems you agree).  I guess your complaint is that he isn't really fully living up to what you expect in terms of bugfixes and general growth in areas other than story, and I can't speak to that part either way.
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Offline eRe4s3r

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Mhh, thats true.. no what i want is that you step in the Cloning Machine and start making some x4000 clones, because we need more involved and caring developers like you! (but focusing on different genres ;p)

We = PC Gaming ;D

That said, maybe i am really the wrong guy to post about it, as a graphics artist i do not agree that "status quo" is something an artist can ever live with. A true artist wants to constantly challenge himself, improve his works, improve his skills...  ::)
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Offline x4000

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Mhh, thats true.. no what i want is that you step in the Cloning Machine and start making some x4000 clones, because we need more involved and caring developers like you! (but focusing on different genres ;p)

We = PC Gaming ;D

Many thanks. :)

That said, maybe i am really the wrong guy to post about it, as a graphics artist i do not agree that "status quo" is something an artist can ever live with. A true artist wants to constantly challenge himself, improve his works, improve his skills...  ::)

Well, I think that is true of all of us.  I certainly feel that way about game design in general, and about improving the whole of my games (either through my own improvement, or through encouraging the rest of the team improve their own work, as the case may be).  We're all growing and getting better all the time.

In the case of Vogel, I read his situation as thus:
1. He makes solid money, but not so much that he can hire much staff to help him.
2. He doesn't have a lot of interest in graphics or engine development beyond what he already has.
3. He apparently puts a ton of effort into his stories -- essentially, maybe his games are "interactive RPG-ish novels" from what I can tell?
4. He apparently is such a great writer that he has legions of fans that will overlook some of the less savory (to non-fans) aspects of those game engines and flock to the games themselves.
5. As far as artistic growth goes, there's a ton one can focus on purely in the realm of writing, and evidently that is his focus.

That sort of hardcore RPG in that style is not my thing, which is why I've never played his games.  But I have enjoyed reading his blog for a good while now, and I think he's a smart guy who knows what he's about.  Some players get annoyed at me for not including pvp play or story or whatever other "must have" in AI War.  But I know what my focus is here, and I put all my energy into that.  AI War has been successful enough that I have the luxury of also paying to have art and such improved, as that is something that is important to me, but not every indie is going to be that fortunate.

And, let's face it, Vogel has been at this far longer than I have (professionally, anyway -- I was also doing some reasonably popular hobbyist stuff when he was just getting started at Spiderweb).  I think that variety is good, and that Vogel shouldn't be condemned for focusing on a specific niche.  There are plenty of people who want to condemn me for not having glitzy 3D graphics and not making a game that is more simplified (read: braindead) instead of AI War.  Tastes vary, and that's why I try not to criticize my peers, as I'm not always the best judge.  Some of them who have criticized me (read: Indie Game Magazine) were clearly way off base, and I don't care to look like as big a fool as the IGM reviewers made of themselves. ;)

I hear your points.  But I think that just means that you (like me, really) are outside the target audience for Vogel's work.  But I don't condemn his work or hope that he will fail.  There's enough room on these here Internets for the both of us, and hey -- he was here first. ;)
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Offline eRe4s3r

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Tis true, but the cynic in me would say "If he can write good stories, why does he not write books?"

Edit: Tis a Rhetorical question, i know its all about the money;D
« Last Edit: April 22, 2010, 05:15:20 PM by eRe4s3r »
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Offline Doddler

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Tis true, but the cynic in me would say "If he can write good stories, why does he not write books?"

Edit: Tis a Rhetorical question, i know its all about the money;D

I dunno, writing a game and writing a book can be quite different.  A book is rather specific, it most certainly centers around characters and their interaction.  A game, even if you are not good at building characters, you can build a detailed and attractive world.

I had a friend of mine in college, who would spend his free time creating role playing game worlds.  He would have pages filled up with maps, written history, he would go to such great lengths to create these worlds.  Everything in the world had a history, goals, aspirations, it was really quite something.  He couldn't write a traditional story to save his life, he would make simple role playing games to tell the story of his world. 

My friend never did much with them, I don't think he ever released any of his work (his lack of programming skills hurt his work a lot).  But I understand how one could be obsessive about creating 'worlds' rather than stories, and can understand why that would lead him you game development even without the required skills over writing books and short stories.

I've never played any of these games, I'm not really sure what they're about, but it sounds like that might be where he's coming from.