Monday, July 30, 2007

Cat hair nose job.

I was at Comic Con all week, and this weekend. I would like to start by saying that sleeping in my own bed was a blissful experience that only long absence can allow me to truly appreciate.

I think I also inhaled a helping a cat hair / dander that did a number on my sinuses while I slept on Iason's sofa. I have those good old summer time allergies to cats who aren't mine, and they seem to get worse every year as I get older and more battle weary.

I'll probably write a lot on this years Comic Con as the days pass, because I saw and did a lot there. Most of it was from the eye of a business man wondering to himself: "How can I get these people to give me their money?" and "What is that smell?"

First I would like to speak to all 20 of you (yeah, google says that there are more than 8 people reading this now) about seminars, and the dangerous misinformation they can give you.

I attended one called "FTW: How to break in to the video game industry" hosted by speakers from Foundation 9, Madcats, Sony, Capcom, and a guy who as far as I can remember was just an indie game blogger or somebody in the press/reporting circle of the video game stuff. I do recall though somebody saying he was there to give the indie side of the story.

After an hour of enduring questions that seriously were made up of deep insight such as "Do you like, read resumes that people send you, cause like, I sent mine and like, never got a reply?" the seminar didn't end. I was waiting patiently, and it just went on and on. I wanted to approach the bench and speak to the guys one on one, developer to developer, but I never had the chance because my phone kept paging me that Skill City servers were crashing and with no end in sight I had to leave.

I was there for 2 hours though, and what I did learn is that the big corporate game producers, and even the British fellow who was supposed to be reprezentin' us indie shops have a very biased view of their industry. I don't actually know why it surprised and dismayed me so much. I should have expected it, had I sat and thought it through.

I mean obviously a rep from a giant video game corporation is going to tell you that the way to "break in" to the industry is to start as a tester or QA person, then work up the long corporate ladder. It's what most of them did, and it's the method that is approved and effective for giant game factories such as theirs. Clearly they are now in positions of power and prestige, so who can argue?

Well... I would. I'm just a little scamp like that.

They never mentioned at all that to "break in" to the game industry all you need to do is wake up in the morning and say "Today, I am a member of the video game industry."

I'm serious, I speak from experience, and if you don't believe me just click here and let my work argue for me.

A lot of people will attempt this method of "breaking in" to the game industry, and they will fail, because once you declare yourself part of the industry you also have to act like it. That is the true sticking point. It's not that you failed to get a job for Soul Eating Corporation Number 91a. It's that you can't get anything done unless somebody is standing over you telling you to do it, and or paying you for it.

I'm not being negative, I'm just saying that there are a lot of people who go the indie game developer route and never finish even one game or product. It's very common. That same person, were they to work for a small shop like mine, or a huge shop like Sony, might flourish and become the next star of our time.

I think, as I write this, that the indie gamer method of "breaking in" (I hate that term so much I refuse to stop putting quotes around it) to the game industry is actually so hard that maybe it just wasn't worth mentioning. Maybe it wasn't lack of interest in that obvious route that caused a panel of prestigious gentlemen to simply ignore it for two hours.

There was a point at which somebody in the audience yelled out, in answer to a "Will you fund my game?" question "Portals will." and the panel shot him down. It was at that point I looked at him, as he was sitting near me, and said "I think everybody up there on the panel has never made their own game before, and probably has no idea how portals work, because I have many friends whose games were funded by portals/publishers."

A few minutes later the idea of finding a publisher to fund a game for you, so that you could use this proto game in your resume when applying for Capcom was actually broached by the panel.

Wow... so go indie, but only because that will allow you to make a game that you can use to impress game companies in to hiring you.

Yes my friends. That is the moral of the story of that entire seminar. I came away from it with the taste of sadness for all the kids in there who genuinely wanted to get in to the game world, and probably wont because they will spend all their time trying to get a job at a huge company someplace rather than just following their dreams and setting out on their own journey to greatness.

I am by no means saying the seminar was a waste of the men of the panel are not wise, and worthy of praise for giving their time. I was just sad that such a great way to break in to the game business (see? I'm over it now) was totally glossed over.

I sleep at night by telling myself that after I left to fix the servers they had a very long discussion of going indie, how it can be more fulfilling than working for somebody else, or being a tiny spoke in a larger gear. They probably didn't, but I'm a dreamer.


Illusion of Doing said...

Another thing to remember is that the meaning of "game" keeps changing.

If what you deeply and truly want is to be a part of making a game that lives and dies by a cutting edge engine, extravagant cut scenes, full orchestrated score, then you need to be a part of a larger organization or invent some wicked tech to help you and your 3 friends get there. In that context, making small/indie game XXX to prove your design/art/music skills is a sensible way to get noticed and go on to build HUGE MONSTROSITY Y.

Some genres are just not well represented (afaik) in the small development community. This may be due to actual, respectable factors rather than just designer apathy.

The Mayor said...

I agree, the small indie community tends to skew toward Casual, Puzzle, and Shmup (shoot em up) genre. Mostly because it's rather easy to make them.

And your other point is definately valid, as an indie developer one will certainly be insane to attempt to write something like Fable with 3 friends and mom's basements as head quarters. It's doable, but it will take far too long. If you aspire to huge monstrosity games then write tetris to show you know what you are doing, and then bring that to EA as part of your resume so you stand out from all the people applying who can only list Devry or ITT as their "experience."