All right. Let's get started. I am Rebecca Heineman. I'm the CEO of Olde Sküül, a videogame company based in Seattle founded by several really senior developers in the games industry.
I've been developing games for well over 30 years and I'm responsible for several huge franchises. Most notably The Bard's Tale, Dragon Wars, Out of This World-- I'm one of the programmers on that. Pretty much I'm a classic gamer.
I honestly think if you were to take someone who's been playing videogames for about two decades or even one decade, you have probably worked on something that they have played.
To put it in perspective, I'm one of the founders of Interplay. When it was Jay [Patel], Troy [Worrell], Brian Fargo, and myself, we founded the company and I was the one who wrote most of the games for Interplay for our first five years of existence. Like, I wrote Mindshadow, Tracer Sanction, Tass Times in Tonetown, Borrowed Time. Did the technology behind Bard's Tale I and II. I wrote Bard's Tale III.
Did ports for all of our games. I did ports -- under the Interplay banner, I did Racing Destruction Set for the Atari 800. But, see, these are all things I did to generate money so that we wouldn't go out of business. [Laughs.] And so we would be able to start doing things that, you know, later one was like Battle Chess, which was one of the first games we did that was actually published by Interplay and not by someone else.
You've done so much that has gotten released, I feel like a jerk starting off with this but: Why do games get canceled?
Well, games get canceled for several reasons. It's never one reason. The most common of them all is bad management.
Whoever is running the project is either incompetent or they had their hands tied to the point where they had never had a chance. An example would be an Interplay game we worked on called Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury. It was a Star Trek game that we were doing in the early '90s and it was ahead of its time in the sense that the game was almost all cinematics. We did 3D models of all the cast members, like Leonard Nimoy, WIlliam Shatner, DeForest Kelley, etc. We had them all come in and record their lines.
So it literally was a computer-generated episode of the classic series.
The problem was that because they were cut using bleeding-edge technology, no one had ever actually sat down to say, "How much would this cost per minute to generate this footage?" No one had ever done that.
This is like the same kind of problems people run into on Kickstarter.
So, as a result, they said, "Hey, we did a little demo."
They made a model of Spock in 3D. They rendered it, they did some human facial motion. They said, "This is great." They greenlit the project without anybody ever actually saying, "Well, we did this demo by using 50 computers in an array in the back room and it took an hour to render two seconds of scenery."
Remember, this is back in 1990, which is a significant amount of CPU time just to do the simplest of renderings. And nobody ever said, "Well, let's see. The game's going to use approximately two hours of footage, so if it takes us about an hour to generate a second of footage with 50 computers, multiply that out -- that's a lot of money and CPUs in order to render two hours of footage."
That's assuming it was gotten right the first time.
I've never made a game, but isn't there a lot of math involved?
There is if you're an engineer if you're doing the engine of the game. Like, my job, I do a lot of math: On 3D maps, in fact, there's several algorithms I'm the one who invented them.
The problem, though, is that for a majority of people who create a game, you don't have to know one line of math. Like, in example of Vulcan Fury, the writing was done by D.C. Fontana. She was one of the writers of the original series, and she did was give us a movie script. Just like saying, "Hey, write me script suitable for TV series. The only difference, though, is that after each scene, if there's a decision tree, write each individual scene. So, like, what if you go up to Spock and you don't have this? Spock's going to say this. Write those lines. If you do have it, then what does Spock do?"
That's essentially how it's written. But it's still just writing. Not math.
Is it just really difficult to predict what costs of a game might be because it just may not work as predicted and it takes time to figure out how to pivot? How do the costs end up creeping so much?
Costs creep because very few people actually sit down and pre-plan it all. A good example is, like, when you do a major motion picture -- people have done motion pictures so many times now it's a science. It's an exact science: you get the script, you lay out storyboards, you figure out each scene, and then you even figure out a budget saying, "This scene we'll just set up in this one set, these 12 scenes in this one set. That set cost us this much money. These scenes need CG, this is how much we think it's gonna cost" and then you send it off to bids for CG. It just -- as you create the film, before even the camera rolls, you already know every single shot from the beginning of the film to the end of the film, how it's pacing, how you feel it's going to be the length, you have a really good idea of what the budget's going to be like.
Therefore when you start filming -- then, of course, there's always the shit happens. Somebody hurts themselves, or there's an accident, or we thought the scene was gonna be shot wasn't gonna happen. Costs overrun. That happens.
Unfortunately, because computer games are more like the films of 1920's and 1910's, no one knew that shit. They just said, "Hey, I wanna do a story!" And then they just start filming each scene, and it's the director's responsibility to edit it all in their head. There's no thought about costs, they just say, "Hey, let's just keep filming until we run out of film and edit what we got, and that's what we ship."
When a game gets canceled, does that sort of wisdom in hindsight -- is it gained in anyway? Is it shared between the industry? Or does it --
Sometimes it is and some isn't.
What I just explained was bad management, and that's one reason a game gets canceled.
Another reason is the game is finished or nearly finished. They take the game and they actually tell people, "Let's play it." If all the reviewers universally say, "This game sucks!" They may just cancel it right there because they say, "Hey, it's gonna suck."
Other reasons are maybe the company spent all the money developing the game and now they don't have any money for the advertising budget. Maybe they don't have money to ship it because, for one, in the past, when you finish a game, you still have to press the CDs, you still have to ship it to the stores. That ties up a million or more dollars, and if you don't even have that money in the bank, you usually just go bankrupt or you sell the game to somebody else to publish.
To a different publisher.
Yeah. But, of course, if your game sucks and you just can't get anybody interested in it, then at that point your game's gonna die anyway. That's another way the game can get canceled. You may have the money to finish the game, but you don't have the money to get it in stores. Or now today is where it really doesn't cost that much to get it up on Steam or Good Old Games or something like that.
It does cost money to advertise.
Right. And at least from where I read, that's where a lot of the budget will be -- or at least an equal amount set aside as the development budget.
I never know what the numbers on these things actually are. Like, there was that Destiny thing where it got reported as being $500 million and then later they were like, "No, no, it was just $120 million." But it's at least a 1:1 between development and marketing?
It can be. In many cases, I've noticed that companies would -- whatever the budget for the game was, they would usually spend that much money to develop the game just for marketing. Now, if it's an indie title, we don't do that much marketing. We just do trade shows and stuff like that.
But if it's Call of Duty, where you have TV commercials and so forth, yeah. You're talking a multi-million dollar ad campaign.
How valued is project management in game companies?
It's totally a mixed bag. Some companies, it's gospel. Project management is important -- and of course, those are the companies in which they tend to get their games out on time, on budget. Sometimes the games may not be as good as you think they should be only because the company realizes, "Hey, we only have X number of dollars. We've got to cut corners."
But then other companies just don't do that pre-production I was talking about and then they wonder, "Hey, we ran out of money. What're we gonna do? Uh..."
And you're in big trouble.
[Laughs.] Sorry. It's not funny. It's just horrible.
Oh, it is horrible, but unfortunately it is a truism.
Perfect example in the industry was Double Fine's Adventure, which eventually ended up becoming Broken Age. That is a classic tale, in my opinion, of bad management. Because what had happened was they made a promise to their Kickstarter backers that for $400,000 they're gonna make a game. Fine and dandy. And of course they were really thinking they were gonna do a game no more graphically better than the classic Day of the Tentacle or Monkey Island. Which, for $400,000, it's quite reasonable to do a game of that quality.
But then, Kickstarter just drove a bulldozer with money and dropped it off at their front door and are like, "What're we gonna do with all this money? Let's make a bigger game!"
But for whatever reason, when they came up with the idea of the bigger game, somewhere along the line the message was lost that if you give someone gives you $3 million you just don't make a $7 million game out of it.
And so they ended up having to split the game into two parts for Broken Age and Broken Age: Act 2, but the damage was done in the sense that now Double Fine has this stigma about them that they promised A, but delivered B, and because they were given quadruple the budget they asked for -- actually it was more than that. They asked for $400,000 and they ended up with almost $3 million. So, they got, like, seven times, eight times the budget and they still couldn't deliver the game on budget?
That right there is bad project management.
Maybe I'm misremembering, but you have had some overlap with Hollywood, right?
Oh, unfortunately yes.
Does project management seem to be better in that industry overall?
Is it equal?
It's about equal. It's again: mixed bag.
Some production companies are right on the money. Other production companies are, like, they think that the bank account is completely endless and they spend money like crazy and then when their producers say, "Hey, gotta cut the budget." They say, "Well, then we can't finish the film."
And it's like, "What?" [Laughs.]
What are the requirements for someone to lead on a videogame at a bigger studio?
Well, unfortunately, there's three different criteria. Only one is required.
Criteria No. 1, which is a cynical one: You happen to know the boss. You either know the boss, or you got promoted from the ranks, or somehow you ended up in a position where because someone knows you personally you get in there. Unfortunately, more often than not, those type of producers tend to be ineffective. Occasionally they're ones who are respectable people. Others are like: How did you get this job?
Others are that they proved their competency because they shipped games in the past either through indie studios -- examples would be like Warren Spector or Richard Garriott, or hell, Will Wright. Their names are attached to multi-million dollars franchises and their games have made so much money that they are effective managers.
Now, granted, there are people out there who have made multi-million dollar franchises but at the same time have no concept of how to manage their project budgets. But even so, however they do it, even if they go way over budget they still make money. So -- they're the James Camerons, shall we say, of the videogame world.
And then lastly is someone who is competent and rose up through the ranks through their competency. Sadly, that kind of person is rare. They do exist. I know several people who started off in QA and just through sweat, blood, and tears have proven their competency and have gone on to become extremely successful project managers and producers.
I mean, you hear about stuff like that in other industries. Starting out in the mail room and meteoric rises and so forth.
Do you get the sense that that seems to be happening less in videogames?
Yes. I do feel that it's less because very few companies are actually hiring people from, shall we say, QA.
Personal experience. Interplay was both notorious and virtuous in the sense that we were bloody cheap, so we would hire people from QA to do other jobs. Like, we need an artist? First thing to do is to go to QA and say, "Hey, anybody here want to help us out with art?" And some of them would "audition" by doing some of that work on company time and then the ones that we find actually show promise, we put them on doing art.
Unfortunately, one of the side effects of that is we were still paying them minimum wage. [Laughs.]
I assumed. Some might call that "good management," though.
There is that.
However, though, there are several excellent, excellent game designers, producers, and programmers who are now in the industry who all came from the equivalent of the Interplay mail room.
And granted, there were people who were promoted from the mail room that really should never have left the mail room. [Laughs.] Or, in our case, QA.
But, you know, the thing is you gave these people a chance. You actually gave them the fact that they could come in, make flipping-burger wages just playing videogames. But those who have ambition and actually wanted to move forward were given shots at being a producer or being a project manager or being a programmer or an artist or on audio. And those who actually proved they could do it, well, then their jobs were changed and they sometimes got a bump in pay, and off they went.
And then eventually they developed whole careers out of it.
Why do you think videogames are so fixated on Hollywood? You hear the phrase "videogames are bigger than Hollywood" a lot -- only by people in videogames.
Well, the phrase "videogames is bigger than Hollywood" is true, yet it's not true.
I know. [Laughs.]
It's true in the sense that all the money that was generated by the film industry versus the money generated by the videogame industry, videogames make more money. However, they're bundling in the sales of the Xbox One, the PS3, PS4, etc., which is kinda skewing the numbers.
Yeah, because Hollywood doesn't sell cameras.
Yeah. They don't sell cameras. They don't sell lighting equipment. So forth.
And definitely you don't go buying your own home theater. You go to a theater, you give $12 or something like that and you watch the film and you walk home. But you don't keep the theater.
Because there are videogames that are making money -- in fact in some cases more money than Hollywood blockbusters. A good example is, like, both Destiny and the Call of Duty franchises. They've generated over a billion dollars. In some cases per game when they make a release. There's only a handful of films that have grossed that kind of money.
Yeah, but, like, I never hear that a musician is bigger than a movie star. They’re different worlds and really -- who cares?
There's a big difference in what you just said. Musician and movie star is that you're selling the person. In the film and games, you're selling the product.
There is a comparison. Films -- whenever a film comes out, the first thing they do is they announce the grosses. It's a contest saying, "Tomorrowland got $9 million." I'm making the numbers up. I don't know.
Yeah, no. I know. It's reported as news.
Well, the thing, though, is that games are rated the same way. When a videogame comes out, there's a thing called PC data, which tracks all the sales numbers. And there's even a website, which does a good estimate of Steam sales.
When you look at the selling price of a game and how many copies, you can get a rough idea of what their grosses are. And videogame companies are constantly looking at the grosses. In fact, in many cases, when a game is shipped, you are rated on two things and two things only: your Metacritic rating -- which is essentially the reviews -- and your grosses.
And a majority of time, your sequel is greenlit solely on the grosses.
Do you think this is harming the industry in some way?
Yes. Oh, it's totally harming the industry.
The problem was is that one of the things Interplay did was because we had so much money from some of our earlier titles, we were not afraid to experiment. Granted, we did some games you're going, "What were you thinking?"
But other games were ones where they were just diamonds in the rough and they become franchises on their own. A good example is, like, Interplay did a bunch of later -- after we did the Bard's Tale series, Wasteland, we started doing other games like Planescape: Torment and we did a bunch of the D&D games and so forth. But most other publishers wouldn't even touch that. And it made Interplay well-known for that type of game. But then we did a whole bunch of experimental games.
However, right now. Today. Everybody is so risk-averse that if I go in there with an original concept and say, "Hey, here's a brand new game. It's never been done before and I really think it's gonna sell a million copies. Like, I don't know, Minecraft." Every publisher out there is going to tell you, "No, no, no, no. But if you come in here with Harry Potter 7 or Call of Duty 9, sign you up right now."
Because the idea is if the Call of Duty or Harry Potter or whatever game that's already been done has grosses on it, they'll rate you based on those grosses. "If Call of Duty grosses $1 billion, so if we add some more stuff to it and put in movie stars and put some more money on it, we should gross $1.2 million next time. Let's green light that!" Instead of, "Hey, let's pay this little tiny company Sweden, I don't know, a couple hundred-grand and make a little puzzle game for kids and see what happens!" [Laughs.]
It's sort of funny because I think of it as a lateral shift from ports, which used to be a bigger deal as the different hardware was, well, more different.
That's back again. In fact, I have a hell of a lot of business right now doing ports.
I guess I just mean that ports now are much more 1:1, whereas before I can remember many more examples of games being adapted or changed for the platform. Instances where one title would come out on Nintendo or Super Nintendo and it would be this way, and on Sega it would be almost a completely different game.
Actually, you are correct. That is something I wanted to bring up.
Today, we have a huge number of consoles: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, the Vita, the Android platforms, iOS. There are differences in the point that some versions are ports. That they are actually are totally different, and others that are the same game. Examples are, like, there are so little differences between the PS4 and the Xbox One is that they pretty much are the same game. The only difference is artificial differences, like we add a level or two or some sort of exclusive content only because Sony, Microsoft, or whatever either pays us money to do it or it's their sneaky way of getting you to buy the game twice.
But right now the only real platform that's actually any real different is the Nintendo 3DS. Like, if you do anything on the 3DS, you're pretty much writing the game from scratch. But if you're doing it on the Wii, it means you have to do a lot more effort into engineering. But you're really still doing the same game.
But the whole thing, though, is that you've got this whole slough of people wanting their game on all these platforms because not everybody is doing -- today, almost all the consoles are pretty much the same machine. We have the Xbox One, PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, which they're so close to each other, heck, they're almost all using the same CPU that it's really nothing more than just getting the game running on a different environment but you're really not changing anything with the game.
Which is good for people doing ports, but it's also bad in the sense that today there's so little differentiation between the consoles and between the platforms that now we're starting to see people spreading out to their camps and saying, "Well, I'm gonna buy a PS4 and I expect all the games to come out on PS4." And when someone out there says, "I have an Xbox One, I expect the games to be done on the Xbox One." And the two shalt not meet.
Right. And what do you think has eroded that expectation of exclusives and bigger titles help keep systems a little bit more competitive?
Well, the thing is, though, that it hasn't really gone away. It's just that the only company that seems to be doing it is Nintendo.
[Laughs.] Which somehow, but they are looked at as not even part of the conversation. Even though, objectively, they're doing far more interesting stuff because it is so different.
Yeah. And also, it's like -- well, the thing is that the CEO of Nintendo was quoted a few years back saying, "Nintendo does not make videogames. They make toys. They just simply happen to be in the form of videogames."
And in the sense that they make toys is that they've got these recognizable characters. They've created this whole shared universe. I mean, now, Nintendo -- how many? How many characters do they have? A couple hundred?
I mean, it's probably on par with The Simpsons at this point.
Yeah. Not just The Simpsons, we're talking here like Marvel Comics.
True. It's an entire universe.
Yeah. It's an entire universe, and some of them are not really shared. Kinda like, you know, Marvel has the superheroes, but then they also have Guardians of the Galaxies where, yes, they technically are in the same universe. They exist in totally different worlds.
With, here, Nintendo, you've got Star Fox, so he and his group, they're flying with his crew and fighting his own enemies. But Mario doesn't show up in a Star Fox game. But, however, you get games like Super Smash Bros. or the Mario Kart game, which Star Fox is in it.
The people I see having the most fun at E3 are always at Nintendo's booth.
What's the difference, then? Is it the mentality that Nintendo acknowledges that it's toys and if so, then why is that so sneered at and ignored?
Well, because we have a culture right now -- the gamer culture in which it's really about: "What is the power of your machine? How much CPUs? What's the video card you've got?"
It's the showing off my Ferrari versus the BMW, which is kind of true. You've got one company who's selling you Ferraris. The other one is selling you Lamborghinis. Both cars are awesome. You drive them, they're expensive, they're flashy.
But then you have this other company called Toyota that just makes cars. And they're not trying to impress anybody. They say, "Well, if you want a car, here's a car. It's low-cost. It gets you where you want to go. It's practical."
But there's no flash to it. And the thing is flash is sexy. People like best graphics. Photorealistic. They want all this bragging rights, whereas Nintendo doesn't care. They do not care because the Wii U, in fact, heck, for the past three generations of the console wars, the Nintendo platforms were woefully under-powered. But they don't care. They're not trying to make a machine that makes photo-realistic graphics at 1080p with explosions going everywhere with cutscenes that are two hours long. No, they just want to get in go karts and beat people up with your favorite character.
I mean, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what the budget was so long as you are having fun or enjoying what you're playing. This is sort of the thesis of the piece I'm finishing up today: Isn't there a risk if people are going all in on the tech side of things of there being a desensitization of that dazzle we're seeing from the other platform holders?
And you know what? My point exactly.
[Laughs.] Well, boy do I have an article for you.
[Laughs.] Yeah. Because what's funny is that was one of our reasons we founded Olde Sküül.
Olde Sküül was founded on the whole concept of old-school fun in modern games. The thing is, though, that our games are not trying to be "how many polygons can we push and how photo-realistic we can be?" No. In fact, the game that we're doing right now, it's an RPG. It actually has a more cartoony look to it. Bright colors. Simple to draw.
Because we are not trying to spend -- first, we don't have that much money. We're an indie studio. But second of all is that we are trying to work with the medium, really focusing on how can we get the most game with the assets and resources that we have? Granted, it's not going to have the visual flash you're going to expect from Call of Duty, but then again, we're not making Call of Duty. [Laughs.]
And my attitude would be if someone came up to me and said, "Hey Becky, why doesn't your game look as good as XYZ?" My answer would be like, "Well, we didn't make XYZ. If you like XYZ, why don't you buy XYZ? If you want a game that we're trying to sell you, then buy our game, please."
But some other companies -- again, back to Metacritics and other ratings stuff, they're all about flash and no substance.
Anyways. One of the things I have noticed with some modern games -- and it's been a trend -- where games are all about these cutscenes and stuff. I mean, the most recent one was -- there was a scene in a recent Call of Duty in which there was a whole funeral scene, and then the camera stops and it says, "Press B to pay your respects." I'm like, "This is a cutscene. You're trying to gamify a funeral?
This is a part of the game. I thought Call of Duty was you running around as a soldier, doing tactics and shooting snipers or whatever. Not paying your respects at a funeral. [Laughs.]
So it's easy to mock Call of Duty, and I get the appeal of it for its audience. But what I don't understand is why half-ass it like that? Why if you want to show the downsides of war -- which I guess there are a couple?
War has a lot of downsides, let's be real here. It's frickin' war. [Laughs.]
What I can say is it's just one way there's been an emphasis in general, and we're not talking just Call of Duty -- it's a lot of games -- where I see the trailer for the game and the first thing in my mind is, "When is the movie coming out?" Because that's what I thought I saw. I'm like, "Is this a game?" I see an action game coming up and I see this character running around and doing these things and scenes and I'm going, "That's not really a game. I'm watching a movie." So show me gameplay. You have this entire trailer and there's not a single bit of thing that I'd say is real gameplay. That's when I'm saying, "Are they making a game or is somebody confusing this with Hollywood to the point where they're really turning this into what I would consider an interactive movie?"
I have had a few developers ask me to start asking this question: Do you think there are too many games?
I can tell you exactly why.
There's only so many people out there who are buying games. I mean, let's face it. Today, there's roughly 7 billion people on the planet. Of the 7 billion, only a small percentage actually buy videogames because, you know, there's still a large percentage of people on the planet who don't even own a computer.
So, we narrow it down to maybe about -- I'm just gonna pull out a number. Maybe about a billion people on this planet are gonna buy a videogame. Buy, play, use a videogame for some reason. Well, then you narrow it down to people who are actually gonna buy these games because they can afford them and you get it down to maybe about 200 million people worldwide are actively buying games.
Well, everybody buys roughly about five games when they get a console or something. There's actually numbers I've gotten, which is somewhere between five and eight games every time they get a machine. So if they buy a PlayStation, in the life of the ownership of that PlayStation, they're gonna buy about -- I'm just gonna say seven games. So, you look at how many PlayStations are out there. Twenty-million, 30 million of 'em. They buy seven games, that means total these people are gonna only buy 140 million games total.
Well, then, of course everybody's gonna have one top-10 game, another top-10 game. So they're gonna already use up a lion's share of the slots which is only really gonna leave you, like, 20 million games left. Everybody else has to fight for that 20 million units in sales.
So, simple math is there's a couple hundred games. A majority will at least break even. Some are still going to lose because mostly they're -- the reason nobody bought them is because they sucked.
But the big thing I've been noticing is when I go to E3 or GDC, I see hundreds of games that I say, "You know what? I'd like to play that. These are really good games. They deserve to make their money back." But I, myself, as an avid game-player have a long list of games that I've bought that are on my Steam account right now that I haven't had time to play yet.
And therein is the mathematical certainty that there's going to be a crash.
If there are more games being produced than the market can bear, there are gonna be people out there with games that deserve to be seen -- and with high production values -- that are gonna fail only because they just can't be seen in the crowd. That's when you're gonna see people get disillusioned, in which they put their heart and soul in the game, it looks really good, they show it to all their friends, their friends say, "Yay!" They then put it up on Steam or whatever platform it is and sell it to all their friends and then nobody buys it. Then when they ask their friends, "Hey, have you played my game?" "Uh, I'm still playing Such-and-such. I'll play your game as soon as I finish this one."
And as soon as they finish that game that they're working on, a new blockbuster shows up and takes their time. And then finally a year or two go by and they say, "Hey, have you played my game?" "Oh, I forgot about it."
[Laughs.] Totally true, though.
That's my point. Is that it's so totally true in the sense that the market is so overly saturated with so many games that people are now having trouble just finding the time to play them. Because, you know, when buy a game it's not like going to the movies. If I go to the movies, I know that in two hours I'm done. I mean, I've just consumed my $12 at the theater or $10 if I bought it on Bluray on discount or whatever. But two hours later, I'm done.
With a videogame, that could either be a one-hour to a 100-hour investment of my time.
So let's look at it from a different point of view. Let's say every game you buy you're going to get 20 hours of time out of it. Let's just say that.
So if you buy a game, how are you gonna give it 20 hours of your time? Are you gonna give it two hours today, two hours tomorrow, whatever? And let's factor in a workweek. That's two work weeks. So, it's gonna take you two weeks just to play that one game for just 20 hours. Well, that means you can only play 26 games a year.
I could bet you right now you could think of more than 26 games you'd like to play right now.
You're proving my point.
I also feel like if you start looking at the budgets in the bigger space and just how they are going up by a factor of 10 every generation. I have poked at the word "crash," but I am not an economist and I just don't know -- like, what does a crash for the space even look like in today's climate? I know it's happened before, but that was also totally different.
Oh, it's actually happened several times.
I mean, the most notable one was the crash of '83, which was when the industry almost completely evaporated and many -- in fact, all the major companies -- Coleco, Mattel, and Atari, all three of them were nearly destroyed. Hell, Coleco was destroyed, and Atari never recovered and Mattel, well, they had enough through Barbie to survive but they were close. They were really close to going out of business.
Then you had another crash when the 3DO went on the scene and then crashed and burned. That was, like, in the mid-'90s.
That was something I wanted to ask you about more specifically, because I know you were involved with some titles for 3DO. Why did that fail?
Well, it's more like: it couldn't.
You see, the thing that makes the videogame market work is it's kind of like what we're doing today with printer cartridges: We give you the printer and we make our profit on selling you the ink. So, the videogame companies, when they bring out a new console, they're actually losing money in a majority of cases. Like, every Xbox One that was being sold, every PS3, every Xbox 360, when it first came out they were losing money for every unit being sold.
But the idea is that for every game that is sold, they get a cut. So, it doesn't matter who makes it.
If Electronic Arts makes the game for the Xbox One, they write a small check to Microsoft. Every game they ship on the Sony platforms, there is a check written to Sony. So, every game that is sold, there is a small amount that is given to Sony. Cumulative? They're making shitloads of money.
But 3DO, on the other hand -- Trip Hawkins, for whatever reason, thought he was going to make money by using the VHS model of making money. Back then, there was a tape war for video-cassette recorders. Beta and VHS. Of the two, Beta from Sony was far better. However, VHS was made by a small consortium of companies, and what they did was simply license the patents to anybody who wanted to make a VHS tape or tape-player. And they made money from that, and then everybody who made a blank tape had to buy the rights to the patents.
So, effectively, they were making money from everybody making players and they were making money from everybody making the tapes. And all they did was create the technology.
Trip Hawkins thought, "Why don't we do that with videogames?" He created the technology to create a 3DO player. He then licensed the blueprints to Toshiba, to Panasonic, to Matsushita, other companies. The idea was they're gonna make players that play 3DO software and pay a royalty to the 3DO company. 3DO, on the other hand, was also licensing to videogame companies to make the software in which 3DO would get a cut for every copy ever sold.
So the whole concept was there would be competition from all these companies making 3DO players, and of course they'd want to have them built into TVs and built into other things because all you did was just get the base chips in. You could actually install it in a TV if you wanted to.
And then through price competition, it would all go down, but every unit sold, there would be a check written to 3DO. And with all these players out there, everybody making 3DO software out there, they would be making money.
Well, there's one huge glaring flaw in this plan: In order to get into the market at any time, you had to give away the players or at least lose money on them. Well, these companies - Matsushita, Panasonic? They would have none of that. They said, "No, no. We're going to sell these players and we need to make a profit." So the 3DO Multiplayer came out in 1995, 1996 -- I can't recall exactly the year -- for $799.
That's right. I remember that.
And that was an insane price. That's like today, coming out with a PS4 and saying, "You know, your new PS4 is $1100."
Well, the PS3 was, like, $600 when it was first announced, right?
Yeah, it was. But they dropped the price relatively quickly.
Right. I remember that, too.
But, see, the thing is Sony can do that.
Whereas Panasonic, if they had lowered it below their costs, they wouldn't make any money. In fact, during that time, when it became clear that the players were just not selling because they were just too expensive, there was a time in which 3DO was writing checks to Panasonic to drop the price because it was like a last-ditch effort to save the platform.
And of course, because nobody was buying the players -- I mean, they only sold about 300,000 at most -- with an install base of just 300,000 units, yeah, and you could only sell on average 2 percent of the units? You can't make a profit on only 15,000 unit sales. Especially with the 3DO, when you had spend a couple million dollars to develop the software.
So, it didn't take long for the 3DO to realize that their entire business model was broken and everything imploded relatively quickly.
I do want to ask you about 3DO and Doom, but before we get into that: What would a market crash today look like?
A crash today would be -- which is already in many ways happening right now.
The first stage is the race to the bottom. And that is because everybody is so desperate for market share, they're trying to either sell or give away the games. We're already in this free-to-play trap in which, well, nobody wants to buy a mobile game -- nobody wants to give you money for it. I mean, if I coulda made a really great mobile game and I think it's worth $19.95 and I put it up there, I might sell 10 copies. Because the market's so full of very high-quality, free games. And a majority of people playing these free games will never pay a penny.
There's a phenomenon called "the whales" in which you put a free-to-play game out there and then there's this tiny percentage of the population -- it's something like .2 percent -- who are the people who will start buying the crap that's in the game. And they will buy it to the point of several hundred if not thousands of dollars. It's those people that are funding the development of the game and the studio.
I remember there was a talk about that at GDC a few years ago. But those aren't really the talks at GDC, I feel, people pay attention to.
Unfortunately, it makes it hard for anybody else to say, at least on mobile, "How in the world are you just gonna do the old business model where I make a fun game and you pay me for the game and then you play the game and have fun?"
And look at on Steam. Right now, the Steam summer sale is actually hurting indies because, like, I would put a game up there and I would ask $39.95 for it because it's a really nice, big, long game or a medium indie game should be, like, $19.95. But people would say, "Hey! That's a nice game, I really like it. I'll put it on my wishlist. And when the Steam summer sale comes around where I can get it for $5 or $10, then maybe I might pick it up, but then again I've got all these 5 kajillion games to choose from."
And at the same time, it's like, even games that the AAA titles are last year, I could pick them up for, like, $9.95 or heck -- even, I picked up some Tomb Raider games, like, a trilogy for $3.99 on the Steam summer sale.
I did that, too.
So, how can I compete with a brand new game that may not have the production values of a modern Tomb Raider where they're charging $3.99 for it?
That is the crash of what's going to happen, is you're going to start seeing -- from the consumer's point of view, it's awesome because it's going to be all these games and they're all really cheap and you can stock up on titles like crazy.
So, the consumers are loving it.
But the developers -- you're going to start seeing developers drop like flies. Indie developers are just going to be leaving the industry because they can't make any money. You're going to see the real tragedy when major developers and major indie developers are not making any money and they're dropping out or forcing themselves to be sold. Examples are like Gas Powered Games. They were trying to do a caveman game on Kickstarter because he couldn't get anybody to give him a contract and he ended up having to sell his company to wargaming.net.
But, you know, all you do is look at Gamasutra and you'll see pretty much every week another studio is closing. And in many cases, especially if it was an indie studio, it's usually because they made a game, they put it out there, they just weren't generating enough revenue to sustain their operations and so they closed.
Once it gets to a critical mass in which the consumer is now going to expect games to be $9.95, the crash is really gonna happen when a blockbuster game, which announces for $59.95 -- people just don't buy it. And their answer when you ask them is, "Oh, it looks like a great game, but you know what? I'll wait for the Steam summer sale or I'll wait for it to be discounted because I'm so busy playing all these other games I just bought that you know what? I don't have time to play GTAVII or whatever it is because I'm still busying playing GTAV with all the expansions and all the DLC for $10."
And that's when the companies are gonna start realizing, "Hey, we can't spend $125 million to develop a game because we only sold a million copies at $9.95."
We're talking about a lot of bleak stuff, and we need to get a little bleaker still with this whole 3DO thing. I know you had said on the Internet you're happy to talk to anyone --
Oh yes. That was a hell project.
Has anyone taken you up on that yet?
Nope. You'd be the first person to interview me about that. No one has actually formally interviewed me on the wonder that is 3DO Doom.
I know there's a lot to talk about, but, like --
Oh, it's a whole conversation in and of itself.
I'm sure it is.
Let me give you the elevator pitch, and I'm really gonna edit it for time.
There was a company called Art Data Interactive. The CEO was a guy who was just a member of a church somewhere in Southern California. Somehow he was able to convince his friends at the church and other friends that 3DO is the wave of the future and that he needs their money to go ahead and form a game company. "Get in on this."
He raises $100,000. He then starts making this game. A Battle Chess ripoff.
And he feels the way he wants to do it is he wants to film all the people dressed up as chess pieces and that's what he's going to put on the game board.
The guy has no clue at all of game development. Nothing.
So he films all these scenes with money and then runs out of money and then he finds a programmer who makes a really crappy game because he just slaps everything together. And then he puts it out in the stores and thinks he's going to make all this money.
Well, the sales weren't really much and he got notified from all the vendors, all the stores saying, "Who the hell are you? Who is Art Data Interactive? I don't know. This chess game? Interplay's got Battle Chess. Why would we want your chess game?"
Well, at the time id was doing Doom and it was the big thing, and he thought, "Hey, if I license Doom and put it on the 3DO, it will put my company on the map."
So he went over to id, and at this point and time, id really wasn't sold on doing anything on consoles. At that time. And so they said, "You know what? If you want Doom? $250,000 and you'll get the rights."
Which at that time, everybody who saw this said, "Nope! Too expensive. Too expensive."
And really, id was just telling everybody to get lost. Randy, on the other hand, the CEO, said, "It's $250,000?"
And he raised it.
And he went to id and said, "Here's a check for $250,000. Give me the rights to Doom."
And id's like, "Okay? Here's the source code to Doom and thank you for the check, have a nice day."
And of course, you know, the royalties. Standard contract.
Well, Randy, because he did not know anything about game development, said, "Okay, we're gonna make the best game of Doom ever! We're gonna have new levels, new weapons, new everything."
As soon as he signed the contract -- the ink wasn't even dry yet. And he went onto a press tour telling everybody he has the rights to Doom, Art Data Interactive is gonna kick ass, they're gonna have new levels, new weapons, and everything.
He even had a friend of his draw mock-up weapons. Just draw them on Photoshop and so forth and give him these screenshots. And he was saying, "These is actual game screenshots."
Of course the press is going, "Oh my God! This looks great! This is awesome!"
Well, he then went to a developer and said, "Hey, can you just do a version for me?"
And they said, "Sure. What you want is gonna take two years and a budget of, like, $3 million."
He said, "Oh no, no, no. You're lying to me."
He went to another developer who, in turn, somehow he finagled them to start on the project but he actually was intending not to pay them.
Well, after a few weeks of working on the project, this company then said, "Hey, we need our milestone payment."
And Randy after a while hemmed and hawed and hemmed and hawed and then this company stopped working on the game.
Well, now this is around July of 1996 I believe. And because of all the press tour, the 3DO company was actually hearing all the positive press that Doom was coming out for the 3DO and people were getting excited about it.
And then they come to find that after they went over and actually inspected Art Data Interactive and realized that this guy has no clue about what he's doing, they're like, "Oh my God. We are screwed."
At this particular time, I had just shipped Wolfenstein 3D for Interplay. I took the Mac code, which I did -- because I did the Mac port of Wolf 3D, ported it over to the 3DO, enhanced everything, and the game was running 60 frames a second. It was a phenomenal version of the game.
I was already known to 3DO, so they contact me. 3DO said, "Hey, we've got this project. Doom. We really want this game out by Christmas. Is there any way you can go ahead and do it because you know id?" I said, "Sure. Put me in touch with Art Data."
Well, of course, I talk to Art Data and they say, "Sure." We negotiate a price. They said, "Sure." And then I said, "Great."
Then what Art Data told me was the game was 90 percent complete. All I needed to do was finish up some bugs and get the game ready for shipping and get it out in about a month or two. And for me it's like, "Oh yeah. I've been doing projects where I just fix bugs and get games out the door. Nothing new to me." So I say, "Sure."
So then, of course, I ask them, "Give me the source code and the assets for Doom that you've got."
Two weeks go by and I keep getting excuses after excuses.
Randy says, "Well, why can't you just start it right now?"
I said, "Because I need this."
So I then called id and they sent me all the assets and everything for the Jaguar version of Doom as well as all the PC version stuff, too. I look at the code and I say, "Yeah, the Jaguar version, I can just do a straight port."
I said, "Well, I'll start working on it because I'm running out of time."
Well, then, I had a friend of mine who was working at Art Data come and privately take me aside and say, "Uh, we don't have anything. The developer that was working on it? They only got to it, like, the code to compile and nothing -- everything Randy was saying was lies."
I'm like, "Oh."
And that point, I was gonna say, "Okay. I'm canceling this project. We're done."
But then I had my friend at 3DO begging me, "Please. We really need this game out by Christmas. People are expecting it."
So I then told 3DO, "Sure. I will do it for you as a favor to you at 3DO. To help you with your platform."
Because they've helped me and helped build my company at the time. So, I did it more as a favor to them. And at that point, I then realized that because of all these delays and everything, it is now August. They need to ship this for Christmas, which means the drop-dead date for the disc would be November.
So that gives me October -- let's see. I started around August and I released the final disc on November 1st. That was 10 weeks.
I just said, "This is just going to be a straight Jaguar port."
I spent 10 weeks producing the source code that you saw up on Github and of course, when I was submitting builds to Randy over at Art Data, the frame rate wasn't that great because I just got the game prototype.
I didn't have time to optimize it.
And he was saying, "Why isn't this game running at 60 frames a second? Where is my new weapons? Where is my new stuff?"
And I'm like, "Do you have any idea how game development is done?"
Because he truly believed all you had to do to put a weapon in a game is to draw it.
He did believe that if you drew a weapon -- you just gave me the art file -- I would put it in the game and it would magically fire bullets. It would do all the effects animations and switch and -- he thought that was just me putting the art in there, hit "compile," and I'm done.
And so he was really pissed off at me during the development of the game because he was saying, "Where's new levels? I promised people new levels."
And then of course I turned around and said, "Well, you promised me a source-code drop and you said this game was 90 percent done and here it is I have to start from scratch."
And there were several times where I wanted to quit that project.
But every time, I was talked out of it by my friend at 3DO.
And so eventually I got the game basically shippable. I don't call it "finished." I call it shippable.
At that point, I sent the discs off to 3DO. 3DO fast-tracked it and had it approved, like, within a few days.
And then Randy at Art Data did the stupidest thing -- even more stupider than everything up to this point. He pressed 250,000 copies, as I understand it, of Doom for the 3DO.
To put it in perspective, there were only 250,000 3DOs in existence. It was a blunder of the same proportions of ET, where Atari printed out as much cartridges as there were consoles. Which is -- mathematically, you're never gonna sell them all.
Randy was so hard up for money because his investors were saying, "Hey, we invested all this money. Where are your profits?"
He thought, "All I have to press is 250,000 copies of the game, ship it to the stores, and then I will get the money for 250,000 copies."
Not understanding that you have to advertise it. There has to be a market base. It really shows how little he knew of the industry.
So, of course, Doom 3DO comes out. They sell, I think, 10,000 copies, which is what they should have sold.
Then it was, of course, universally panned. The music was great, but, you know, I myself knew the game was gonna get rated poorly because of the frame-rate issues.
But it was like -- 3DO had been promising people either indirectly through Randy that Doom was coming out that they had to fulfill their promise. So, in that particular sense, 3DO as well as Logicware, did fulfill the promise that was given to the public that 3DO Doom was available in stores.
Now, we didn't fulfill the promise Randy was saying, which was new levels, new weapons, "the best Doom ever."
And of course after that, within a few months later, Art Data Interactive went out of business.
Now trust me. That's the Reader's Digest version.
No, I believe you.
To give you an idea, the whole thing from start to finish was about 14 weeks. I got the phone call in July. Then negotiated the contract around the end of July. About two weeks later we got the contract. Then it was two weeks of them stalling of giving us what we were being told was available: a semi-finished version of Doom.
And so once it became obvious to us in the middle of August that they were not going to deliver us anything, that's when I took it upon myself to actually get the assets from id.
And that is when I began the port from the Jaguar port base.
And so I had from two weeks in August, all of September, and all of October.
Near the end of October was when I delivered the final discs of what I would consider a shippable version of Doom for the 3DO. And it went straight to 3DO. I remember we sent it to them in a FedEx overnight.
They then had their testers play it and I had to do one rev in which we made the screen smaller to get the frame-rate up. And then, at that point, they approved the golden masters, sent it off to Art Data Interactive. As far as I know, they never played the game. They just simply said, "All right! Press a whole bunch of them."
Even 3DO said, "Wait a minute. You really shouldn't be pressing this many." But he said, "No, no, no. It's going to sell gangbusters." They said, "Well, if you want to write us a check for that amount of money, we're not gonna stop you."
The rest is history. [Laughs.]
What did Randy think of the final product?
I'm certain Randy was pissed off about the final product because he was expecting it to be the best Doom ever. A game that was supposed to make him famous and his company famous and sell so many copies that it would effectively make him a millionaire.
That game wasn't going to make anyone a millionaire. Not that version of the game, anyways.
And of course, within time, his company imploded around him.
What's he doing now?
I have no idea.
I have to imagine you wouldn't be staying in touch. So I have two areas I want to zoom in on from that quickly. One of them is just -- how do you feel the game industry learns from its mistakes?
If the game industry learned from its mistakes, then we wouldn't be going through these cycles that we are right now. The whole problem is you have a bunch of people in a bunch of different companies that all want to carve out a share of the market for themselves and everyone else be damned.
Like, Zynga, is going around stealing other people's games.
You have everybody doing a race to the bottom.
The major players are just doing sequels. It's very rare that they actually do an original title.
At that point in time, sooner or later -- and then, of course, the fact that right now in many ways the use of Unity and Unreal have actually made the problem worse because before the bar to entry to make a game was so high because you needed to have a very competent technical staff that only a few companies could actually make games.
Today, anybody who's good at art or asset collection can make a game using Unity.
And as a result, look at how many games are on the market right now that were made on Unity.
And sadly, while there are a lot of games created in Unity that are awesome, the problem is there are too many awesome games.
As a person who plays games, this is something I've always wondered and it should be a less intense offset to the story you just told. But how do ports work? How do you actually -- how does that work?
Well, doing a port is several issues.
For one, a game is created on a platform. So, you have platform XYZ. On platform XYZ, you have a game engine, assets, put it on there, fun.
The problem is while most consoles share certain things, there's things that are different. Like, on the Mac you use OpenGL for rendering graphics. On the PC it's DirectX. While they do the same thing -- draw triangles -- how you do them is different.
So what goes on is -- the very equivalent is I'm translating a novel from English to French in which the story's still the same. However, though, there are nuances like sometimes you may make a saying in English that if I translate it literally into French, it makes no sense, so I have to use the French equivalent of that very same phrase or maybe even completely rewrite it. But at least the context -- the concept is the same.
Similar idea when converting it from one machine to another. Right now, almost all the consoles are either using an Intel processor or an ARM CPU. And since everyone's really writing in C, I just compile it. But there's some little subtle things so that a code may not run on one compiler, so I have to take the code, compile it into a machine, make some changes so it works in this other, new compiler and then the code compiles. It doesn't mean it runs.
All the calls to subjects, all the calls to the Windows APIs and stuff? They don't exist on the Mac. So I have to comment that out on the Mac version and replace it with Mac-equivalent code. So, like, on the PC, there's a specific piece of code to open a window. The Mac -- it's totally a different piece of code to do the same thing. But I have to write that code because it was never written in the original game.
I appreciate that you're translating this into layman's, but when you see games coming out, like, every platform or even a while ago when it would be PSP, PS2, 360, and Wii, and maybe also DS or Advance -- how much of a clusterfuck is that? [Laughs.]
The, in your words, "clusterfuck."
Sorry. Sometimes I cuss.
Well, it is kind of an accurate term. The problem is with this is you've got -- just like there's too many games out there, there's too many consoles. I mean, I right now have a nice entertainment center. Big-screen TV and next to it is a dedicated Blu Ray player and an Xbox 360 for watching Netflix.
But how often do we ask the PS3? My point.
My wife just brought up saying, "We also have a PS3." Well, here's the issue is that we don't have a Wii. We don't have a Wii U hooked up to our main TV. We don't even have an Xbox One or PS4 because the Xbox 360 is doing what we want right now. In fact, most of the games we want come out on the 360 anyways.
So, why in the world would I want to spend $2,000 to buy every single other console -- and even if I did buy them. Say I went out and said, "Hey, I got some money I got burning in my purse, I wanna go buy up all the consoles."
Where am I gonna put 'em? Like, our entertainment center doesn't even have room on the shelves for all these things.
Well, a lot of what you hear from the platform holders is it's far less about "exclusives" and much more about third-party things and, like, stuff to listen to music. Is that concerning? Am I just looking for things to be concerned about here?
Well, the thing is here is one of the things that makes any consoles stand out is exclusivity.
Everybody plays Netflix. Everybody's playing Amazon Prime. Everybody's playing Hulu. So forth.
At this point, it's that there is no reason to buy one thing or another, like my wife Jennell [Jaquays] just brought up: We have an Xbox 360 and we have a PS3. Both of them play Netflix. Both of them play Hulu. But the thing, though, is that because I have a couple of games on the Xbox 360 that are not available on the PS3. We just use the Xbox 360.
So whenever we want to watch My Little Pony or the latest episode of Under the Dome or something, I turn on the Xbox 360, turn on my sound system, and we sit there and gel our brains with some Netflix.
But the PS3? I honestly -- when was the last time we turned on the PS3, dear?
Like, six months?
Intentionally. Let's use the word intentionally.
It's been long enough that we don't even remember.
Yeah. That sounds pretty typical, these days.
Therein is my argument point.
The fact that if we had a Wii, I'm certain we would probably fire that sucker up every now and then because if I ever want to play Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart. I can only play it on a Wii, and I know for a fact I will never see it on the Xbox 360. Whereas Microsoft's Xbox, the only thing it's really got going for it is Halo.
And Sony, they do have a couple of games on there like Uncharted. But it's so far and few between, it's not like Nintendo, which you can create an entire shared universe movie-trilogy, quadrilogy, whatever out of them.
So, they're all lost in the crowd, which is the same problem we're having with videogames in general. I go to Steam, and if I find 5 kajillion games that are really, really awesome, and I have to pick and choose which ones I want.
And it's like, every one of these games that I see are worthy of my money. Every one of them, I say, "I want to play that game!" I want to throw money at my screen and say, "Give me this game!"
But, at the same time, it's like, "Well, I just said that to this other game I saw. And this other game. And I only have so much money in my purse."
And then, of course, even if I did have the money, there's only so much time in a day.
In fact, I actually purchased games on Steam not because I'm going to play them, but because I want to support the developer. I just don't have time to play their game. And there's at least -- if you look at my catalog on Steam, I will be honest. There's about 20 or 30 games that I have not played that the reason I bought them was I was voting with my dollars to tell this developer, "I like your stuff. I want you to keep making your stuff. I apologize with my purchase that I can't play your game because I just don't have the time."
But even so, we have so many games that there's a time at which I say, "You know what? I would love to give you money but I just gave it to someone else."
Well, there's three things that can be done to improve the gaming industry.
One of them, of course, is to stop reporting on Gamergate or anything remotely about it because it's just old news and it's like, whatever.
No. 2 is try to highlight the hidden gems. Everybody is reporting the newest game from Sony, the newest game from Microsoft, the newest game from EA. You know what? Fine. We're gonna get inundated anyway with ads. I would want -- I would applaud for gaming press to go out and find the game of the day or the game of the week. Find a game no one is talking about, yet should be brought to the public. Bring these games because you really need to get these really creative people who are trying the new things -- because people are complaining about, "Everyday it's the same thing coming from major publishers."
Well, if you want something new, go to the people who are making new things. Look at like -- I've been supporting some Kickstarters. Like there's one called Four Sided Fantasy. It's a platforming videogame, standard hoppy-jumpy side-scrolling game, but it has a play mechanic that if you touch a box, it rotates the screen 90 degrees and gravity moves accordingly. So, what you have to do in order to solve certain puzzles is rotate the screen in certain ways so you can fall onto a section of the world that you normally couldn't go because it's underneath you. It's a play mechanic that hasn't been done before. I go, like, "That looks cool!"
I just supported a game recently called Dimension Drive. That one is a standard top-down shooter, but it has a new play mechanic. The game is split-screened in which you have a left screen and a right screen. Your character, your spaceship, occupies the same spot in both screens. And what you do is you warp from one dimension to the other at any time. So what you would do is you would fly your ship in one screen and when you're completely surrounded by aliens and you're about to get killed, you warp to the other screen. But you have to move yourself to a place on the other screen that's safe. So it's a really interesting play mechanic. And the visuals look good. And heck, they're only charging, like, $10 for the game. And they got seven days left on their Kickstarter. Thankfully they funded.
But the thing is: Support the indies. The first problem is because there are so many of us -- especially the good ones -- is just let the people know they even exist. Because the biggest problem with many of these indies is they start their Kickstarters they just get on Steam and then they wonder, "Why isn't my game selling well?" It's only because no one knows you're out there.
That's really what I would love to see the gaming press do, is start focusing on the hidden gems. The games that these companies just don't have the money to advertise. Help them. Get them out there. Get their games known. And then, of course, if the game sucks, whatever. Then you really shouldn't have promoted it in the first place. You play the game and check it out.
Let's see. What to say.
Well, unfortunately, the trends that should be covered but in a positive light is the shunning of the people who are basically being jerks. We're not talking like in the Gamergate sense. We're talking in a general sense. There is a small group of people who are ruining multiplayer gaming for everybody because they would go online, they would use foul language, they would cheat, they would -- like, many times, I stopped playing Team Fortress 2 because I would go on there and the moment they find out I'm a girl, well, here come the rape jokes.
And they think it's funny.
And I don't think it's funny.
Of course, if I use a male persona, then they start just talking smack to me and I'm like, "Look, I'm just here to play the game. I'm not here to make racist jokes or to just taunt each other with very tasteless banter."
And then of course you have the real select few who, if they feel slighted in any way, they'll SWAT you.
The gaming journalist press should be really calling these people out and saying, "You guys are assholes. You guys are ruining it. You're ruining gaming for everybody. And that's including your other white, male, straight friends, because not everybody is a jerk like you."
Right now, they're really targeting minorities, women, anybody who's LGBT, but even so, I'm certain there's a good number of people who are -- let's say white, straight, and privileged that are also feeling uncomfortable with some of these people. [Laughs.]
No, I would -- uh, hi. [Laughs.]
I used to write for Nintendo Power, in their community section. It would be about finding and writing about people who, like, made a bust of Mario. Like, I did a thing once about these college kids in Canada who did a musical about Star Fox.
But you really don't see so much -- there's an active want to ignore that stuff, which is also part of the audience. I don't know why. It's like nobody wants to take ownership for creating that.
[Laughs.] You have a point. [Laughs.]
There's really not much more to say other than -- there's certain subjects where it's like, "There's really nothing more I need to add both sides of the argument have been beaten to death." [Laughs.]
How would you like to see the game industry progress creatively?
Creatively, one thing I would really like to see is experimentation with things that have not been done before. Which is what the indies are doing. Which again goes back to my point of support the indies. Especially those taking a risk.
Because, to put it in another perspective: A majority of independent developers are woefully underpaid, and in many cases are wondering how they're gonna eat tomorrow. But they're doing this as a labor of love because they love the game and they want to try something new. Help buy them a burger!
They should do that as some sort of charity, "Buy an indie a burger. Please support your local indies." Stuff like that.
Because the whole thing is that most indies are, like, one- or two-man shops and they are running -- even Olde Sküül, Jennell and I are using a lot of our own savings just so we can go ahead and pay our rent and stuff. Thankfully the company's got to the point where it's just paying us enough to pay our rent. [Laughs.] But we're definitely not, let's say, buying a car or anything like that. We don't own a car. We can't afford one!
But I'm here, working on all these games because I want to be able to go to the store and say, "I made that. I had a hand in this. I did this. I did that." And to me -- and this is how we'll close it.
The thing that makes all this hell -- everything I have gone through, all the deadlines, all the crunches, 3DO Doom -- worth it was that taking my children to a Gamestop. My little five-year-old son. He pulls the game off the shelf and says, "My mommy made that."
And just seeing him and of course everyone else will be looking at me and I go, "Yup. I made that."
That makes it all worthwhile. Hey, that's why most of us are in this industry. Because I can tell you right now, it isn't for the money. [Laughs.]