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A Game's Budget Determines it's Purchase?
Editorial by 
Editor
October 07, 2009, 11:39:26
 
I've actually been thinking about this for a bit, and replying to Zero in the Apathy thread made me think of something in particular... why is it that nowadays a game's budget is even a gamer's concern?

I've only seen this trend as of late last gen, but games made on a lesser budget (usually apparent in its style or graphics and such) seem to immediately get passed on... a lot. It's as though games with a lower budget, no matter what they include or how much replay they have or how tight the gameplay is, get overlooked in a heartbeat.

What really disheartens me, is when gamers themselves reply with "low budget = no buy" or write off games that don't have this "epic" look to them or hollywood-esque flair and looks like it obviously costs billions to make.

Now obviously sales are all relative and that varies depending on a myriad of factors. But what I'm talking about in general, is among the gamers on boards and such, and even in reviews. One that always disturbed me and kinda' angered me, is Disgaea 3. I sorta' already knew that if it didn't use the PS3's power in some way, it would get admonished by reviewers at large. And while it certainly didn't get horrific ratings, many attacked it for its "dated" graphics. I find myself at this half-way point with that one: I get "why" they docked it considering what the PS3 is capable of, but... does that really matter? Obviously NIS - as much run as they are starting to get, isn't a ginormous studio and probably doesn't have that big of a budget.

The ListenUp guys have discussed the bloated gaming budgets on a couple of occasions, and they made a point I honestly agree with completely: companies like Atlus (they were talking about the next Persona on PSP I think?) and NIS and such know what their audience wants, and know where to improve and not to improve, and how to make a game look great and play great within that budget. Meanwhile, many of these studios are closing or being bought out because they funnel so much money into these projects to the point that it is utterly ridiculous.

So my general question is... when did game budget become this important? Why do we, as gamers, care? Am I looking at this the wrong way?

All Thoughts Welcome. (^__^ )


EDIT yeah, as you can se I'm posting a lot right now, partially because I'm trying to get in the habit of doing so before my new job starts! (^__^ )

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Posted: 10/07/09, 11:39:26    
 
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Yeah, this is a total logical fallacy. It always bugs the hell out of me. Value = Quality of Play*Playtime/Money. The budget of the game is meaningless data for the consumer. Should Waterworld have cost 10,000 times as much to see as The Blair Witch Project?

What you said about Zelda puzzles, though, in how they make you feel clever, I think that's really brilliant design. That's what I love about the best puzzles in the Zelda series. They're balanced so most anyone can solve them, but they're still satisfying to solve. Layton and Boxlife also give the player a similar feeling of mental empowerment.


Posted by 
 on: 10/07/09, 19:35:15
I think a game's budget became "more important" after games became more mainstream. I think it really started with Final Fantasy VII - a lot of the marketing for that game boasted it's $3 million budget as a selling point. The fact that the game was GOOD helped mold the general mindset that if the budget is bigger, the game will be better. After that, games just kept getting bigger and more expensive - something the PS2 era capitalized on. But now times are tough and games cost more to make... an inflated budget isn't always a good thing. But not many people realize this yet.

I've never cared too much about what goes on "behind the scenes" with a game. All I care about is if it's fun to play. If yes, then it's probably worth my money. If not... pass. The fact that I'm a portable/handheld gamer for the most part no doubt contributed to this train of thought, I would assume. Portable games don't usually have HUGE budgets to work with. There's usually not really a need. They may or may not have changed with the advent of the PSP, though. But I'm not sure.


Posted by 
 on: 10/07/09, 19:56:30
Yeah, Wind Waker was pretty much a joke from a puzzle perspective. People always talk about how 'fresh' WW was, but most of the puzzles (which really are the meat of a 3D Zelda game, especially given the increasing ease of combat) were totally recycled from Ocarina. I found the puzzles in Twilight Princess to be much fresher. I thought TP had a nice level of puzzle difficulty. I can people thinking they were too easy, but if I have to putz around for an hour or check a FAQ to solve a puzzle, I get pretty unhappy. That didn't happen to me in TP, but I still had to briefly pause and consider the solution, rather than just, you know, run around and light torches on fire or scan stuff. If the puzzles in Twilight Princess were on the same level as some of the tougher stuff in Layton, it would really fuck up the flow of the other game elements.

For me, TP perfectly struck the balance between ease and frustration, which is really rare. Having difficulty settings never hurts, though. (You could kind of say that OOT does have a 'Hard Mode', in Master Quest, or Ura-Zelda, or whatever.)


Posted by 
 on: 10/07/09, 23:48:59
It's like boasting you ****ed a top model bomb, and mock/ignore people that date interesting, cultured, funny chicks that are average.

LMAO, that was a Zero-esque comparison there. Good comparison though. Also:

I think people don't realise gameplay design and balance is production value.

I agree there too, I think that's why it's so often ignored if a game isn't blowing us away with these epic cutscenes and long, convoluted stories. Another frustration of mine: game companies need to start hiring actual writers. But that's another issue altogether.

I think it really started with Final Fantasy VII - a lot of the marketing for that game boasted it's $3 million budget as a selling point. The fact that the game was GOOD helped mold the general mindset that if the budget is bigger, the game will be better. After that, games just kept getting bigger and more expensive - something the PS2 era capitalized on. But now times are tough and games cost more to make... an inflated budget isn't always a good thing. But not many people realize this yet.

I hate to put so much on FF7, because everyone seems to be doing that now, but that is very true. Every FF game after FFvii has followed its form, in fact. Not its battle system (thankfully that changes) but the progression of the story, the super-high-end production, all of that... and yet, I still find myself far more interested in the Crystal Chronicles universe. A large part of that might be nostalgia, because the FFCC games feel like they have more akin to the ideas that the earlier FF games have had, and an art style I love.


Posted by 
 on: 10/07/09, 23:50:03
I had a nice quote I posted on IGN but I forget it now. I found it in the midst of an argument against communism (which says labor creates value.) Basically it says value = desire from the consumer. The end. (Except the way he said it, it sounded way deeper, lol.) It doesn't matter how much you spend to create something, the only value it can ever have is if people want it.

And in that respect, spending less to create something more "valuable" should, probably, be applauded as good sense, in general. Yet on gaming forums you have people complaining that game developers are "ripping them off" based solely on the fact that a lower budget (or PRESUMED lower budget) game costs as much as a higher budget game. Generally HD fans. Often whining about 2D games.

Actually though, it seems gamers are the only ones who obsess over big budgets being a good thing. Music fans don't care how much money their favorite bands spent in the studio, and movie fans don't REALLY care how big a budget of a film is, they still go out and buy the cds and dvds/etc. at full price. In fact, in both of those cases, low budget yet still amazing results are generally praised.

As for your specific case, Disgaea 3 was doomed to bomb on the PS3. I don't quite get it either. I liked 1 and 2 so of course I want to get 3 (eventually... it's on my long list.) Sure the graphics are dated but so what? Actually in general Atlus and Nippon Ichi are two of my favorite developers, and neither is particularly known for their tech (though Atlus tends to push things a bit more than NI in general.)

It's like boasting you ****ed a top model bomb, and mock/ignore people that date interesting, cultured, funny chicks that are average.

That's a good point. I got made fun of on some forum once for questioning the value of celebrity fuck obsessions. Like, why would I WANT to fuck some random celebrity over some cool girl I actually know? Despite the fact that most celebrities disgust me as people, there is the very large probability that if they were screwing some "norm" (me) they would feel like they are on such a level above the norm (me) that they wouldn't put much effort into my pleasure and would pretty much demand that I treat them like a goddess (or god, if that is the way you go.) I can't imagine norms ever get much from sex with celebrities outside being able to tell all their friends they did it, and that is only a plus if you have vapid, shallow friends who care about that stuff.

On topic, I think stuff like XBLA help even HD gamers from that "production value=better" point of view. Things like Braid or World of Goo or Geometry Wars or even Portal prove even to those gamers more money spent from producers doesn't always equal fun (also : Lair, etc)

Kind of, but I also see a lot of people who basically insist that XBLA beats out WiiWare/VC with their main argument being... HD. And that seems especially silly to me considering they're all low budget games, but I guess their logic is if they have to scale down their graphics, they at least want that crisp HD? I dunno.


Posted by 
 on: 10/08/09, 07:32:56
Actually though, it seems gamers are the only ones who obsess over big budgets being a good thing. Music fans don't care how much money their favorite bands spent in the studio, and movie fans don't REALLY care how big a budget of a film is, they still go out and buy the cds and dvds/etc. at full price. In fact, in both of those cases, low budget yet still amazing results are generally praised.

I'll do you one better: in the music industry, you're usually held in ridiculously high regard if you can do something on a low budget and do something extraordinary. But the other side of that, as you mentioned, is that people aren't actively going out and trying to find out how much it cost for Double K to do his deed on the beats and saying it's horrible because he doesn't put in as much money as P. Diddy. People didn't care how much it cost Weather Report to record Heavy Weather or This is This or Black Market, compared to the Marsalis family's work - jazz aficionados will respect both if they sound good (and yes, this is my moment to throw out hip-hop names and jazz bands just cause ).

I do think, though, it happens in the movie industry too, just not nearly as much as it does in the gaming industry. Some people will avoid seeing what looks low-budget.

As for your specific case, Disgaea 3 was doomed to bomb on the PS3. I don't quite get it either. I liked 1 and 2 so of course I want to get 3 (eventually... it's on my long list.) Sure the graphics are dated but so what? Actually in general Atlus and Nippon Ichi are two of my favorite developers, and neither is particularly known for their tech (though Atlus tends to push things a bit more than NI in general.)

Yeah, I recall being shocked by the decision to put it on the PS3, or make it permanently exclusive. I love me some NIS as well and I want nothing but the best for them even if I don't plan to get the system they're supporting the most, but I just wonder why they thought it was the best fit. Phantom Brave finally saw light on Wii (and I'll be getting that very soon!), and Disgaea saw releases on PSP and DS (and Disgaea 2 is PSP bound as well - MAN I love that game too!), so NIS is expanding out of the Sony home console area, but... I still can't help but feel bad that Disgaea 3 gets so rampantly ignored on the PS3 when it's such a great game delivering so much content... all because of what it didn't do.

The only fair criticism I can think of for it is that it does a lot of what the previous NIS games do, so if you aren't a fan of that it won't suddenly drag you in. But what I've seen of the game (yes, I spoiled myself on a lot of it via youtube, bad Dyna!), it really is a great game in and of itself and honestly might be the best of the series.

...as an aside, Disgaea 2 is currently my favorite of the Disgaea games, as much as I LOVE the original cast and having Priere as an available hidden character. Disgaea 2 just does SO MANY AWESOME things it's not even funny, and the new classes are superb in that game. The Thief is useful!!!!


Posted by 
 on: 10/08/09, 10:14:52
Gotta agree with most of what's been said, a lot of big budget games don't spend their money very well. It's all flash, little substance.

That said, a massive budget allows good teams to polish and add levels on levels on levels of content and value. Are publishers giving the big bucks to the right people, or just picking populist, safe genres?

To me it's a shame the big budgets only ever go to "Generic FPS blockbuster" and "Years in the making, Final Fantasy blockbuster". Are those games inherently great, or did the budget just elevate them?

What would happen if you made a $100 million Cooking Mama game? Or a quirky SRPG? Or a motion controlled puzzle game? Or something even more experiemental?

I would like to play those games.


Posted by 
 on: 10/08/09, 13:54:16
I've always wondered if the difference between Nintendo and Valve and Blizzard and the rest of the industry is just the freedom to develop games for as long as they need.

Anyway, I'm actually beginning to hate big-budget games the same way I hate big-budget movies. Most of them are so soulless and boring. I literally fall asleep during long cutscenes, and big set-pieces have replaced flexible, rewarding core gameplay.


Posted by 
 on: 10/08/09, 21:10:36
I like set piece gaming but only when the set pieces are like... intrinsically tied into the core gameplay mechanics. Which to me is more Super Mario Galaxy than Resident Evil 5. Though I am not sure if people would even consider Super Mario Galaxy set piece gaming. I may be confused on what the term means.

I wonder how big the budgets are on Nintendo titles anyway. People just assume they are smaller than budgets on big games on other consoles but I dunno. Often the games themselves are much, much bigger. Super Mario Galaxy, for instance, is WAY bigger than most platformers. It might not have voice acting and fancy FMVs, but you still need to pay your development team for all the time they are spending creating all of that content. Zelda games are always huge. Metroid Prime games are 20 hour shooters, where obvious care has been put into EVERY SINGLE ROOM. Whereas it seems an awful lot of "big budget" games from other developers are only like 8-10 hours of gameplay, and a lot of the environments and gameplay concepts are pretty rehashed.

It actually amazes me when a non-Nintendo developer puts out something like Okami, because you just don't expect a game so huge coming from most developers.


Posted by 
 on: 10/08/09, 21:31:10
I wouldn't consider Galaxy to be a set-piece game, but one could, I guess...

Okay, I looked up the term: Notable examples of setpieces include the Snake Pit in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Death Star Trench Run from the original Star Wars movie, the storming of the volcano lair in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, the burning oil rig in There Will Be Blood and the Batpod chase sequence in The Dark Knight. God(s) bless Wikipedia. It looks like it used to mean a dramatic event, but these days, it pretty much means big, loud, probably stupid action sequences, like the White House getting blown up in Independence Day or any number of scenes in Attack of the Clones (or whatever the fuck it was called). When set-pieces are used in games, I've noticed that they are often combined with QTEs. Twice the fun.

Nintendo's games have always been a pretty good length, especially when contrasted with Sega's games (esp. the arcade ports), back in the day. I remember playing Saturn racing games that had, like, TWO tracks. Being accustomed to getting 16-20 with Nintendo racers, I was appalled.

I've always been curious about the actual budgets of Nintendo titles (especially their handheld budgets, compared to other publishers'), but it's probably better that the world doesn't know.


Posted by 
 on: 10/09/09, 00:40:24
This thread is good at narrowing down what makes 1st party titles successful. It's not just the longer development period, it's the ability to slap a big budget on something you believe in - even if it doesn't fit into a nice neat, vanilla genre.

I think companies like Blizzard and Valve stand out for the same reasons. They spend their money very differently than other publishers. They take chances, they spend their money on longer development cycles, and games they believe in. They approach publishing from a developer's point of view and buy themselves creative freedom.

Of course that only works for as long as you make massively successful games, so it's only a strategy that works for very talented 3rd parties. :)


Posted by 
 on: 10/09/09, 01:38:21
Yay, my thread is useful!

I'm fairly curious how much Nintendo's budgets are on a lot of their games as well.

Also, that's an interesting point about set-pieces. A lot of games seem to focus on making very elaborate set pieces, with not a lot to do in them. RE4 - which I loved, loved, loved - did this a lot as well... provided I'm understanding the term's use correctly in the context of this thread.

Also agreed in regards to Metroid. They put a lot of care and detail into every single room, and the entire map layout in general. That actually must be a fun job to have. (^__^ )


Posted by 
 on: 10/09/09, 05:26:38
It's an attitude that annoys me, yet I find it hard to condemn it. I mean, games are 70 frickin' bucks in Canada right now, I fully understand why one would try to maximize his purchase and look at a game's budget to determine if he's getting the most bang for his buck. What's deplorable is the ignorance of some people who think 2D is cheaper to do than 3D, etc.


Posted by 
 on: 10/10/09, 03:48:33
"What's deplorable is the ignorance of some people who think 2D is cheaper to do than 3D, etc."

It is :)


Posted by 
 on: 10/10/09, 06:14:23
Hmm, I guess I always thought of set piece stage design as like... design where the actual environment is varied and intrinsic to the gameplay. I can't quite put this into words, but one example is the type of area where if you're fighting off a horde of enemies or something, it actually matters where you are at, and the type of area where you WANT to run all over it because every part is different.

But honestly I have no idea why I thought that is what "set piece" design means. I could be way off.


Posted by 
 on: 10/10/09, 07:03:33
"What's deplorable is the ignorance of some people who think 2D is cheaper to do than 3D, etc."

It is :)


It is deplorable? Or it is cheaper?

Currently listening to Retronauts, and the producer on the new Rocket Knight game outright said he pitched the game as a 2D HD game, but it's hard to convince the pubs to invest that kind of money on a franchise no one remembers, so they went for 3D.

It's cheaper.


Posted by 
 on: 10/19/09, 21:47:23
Well, let's both throw out what we think it takes to work with 2D compared to 3D...

For animation, 2D requires artists to draw each frame of a character for every set of animation (run, jump, shoot). If you're going fancy and want your character to talk, you draw a two or three frame animation and repeat it to have them "talk." 3D requires a character model, UV unwrapping (for texturing), texture art for the model, skinning and rigging the model for animation, then animating different sets. If you're going fancy, facial expressions, and perhaps cloth simulation, require some more animating and code.

For extra fanciness, the textured character might also have many types of textures: diffuse map, specular map, bump/normal map.

The 3D modeler also needs concept art for the character before they can start modeling, so that the 3D model matches the developer's vision. Concept art for 2D isn't as much needed, from what I know.

To me, 3D seems to take a lot more resources, in this case.

For environments, 2D requires a 2-dimension level design plan, and hand-drawn (or pixel, I don't know which one you're referring to) foreground elements with props, and a background (either repeating or not). I don't think concept art is required, because I rarely see environmental concept art for 2D games. I guess if they do concept art, they might as well use it for the final in-game art, since it is a drawing after all. For 3D, again you need concept art and a 3-dimensional level design plan, which to me is more complex than a 2-dimensional level. Each unique prop must be modeled after its concept art, including the environment (ground, walls, buildings) and any other details you want in there. Each of these requires a texture, again with seperate channels (diffuse, specular, bump/normal).

Again to me, 3D seems more resource-heavy.

Programming wise, I'm not gonna there...I've got experience with both 2D and 3D and can tell you that 3D programming brings many more complications. Figuring out per-polygon collision detection was a much bigger headache than figuring out 2D collision, for one example. Basically you add another plane to worry about, and that should be indicative that 3D is at least 50% more difficult to code than 2D ;)

So...I personally don't see how 2D could be more difficult or expensive than 3D. I'm not trying to argue, I am probably underestimating something in 2D, so I'm genuinely curious about this whole comparison; I wanna know why you think 3D is cheaper?

(all this aside, I love me some 2D gaming! but I do also love 3D)


Posted by 
 on: 10/20/09, 02:00:55
How often is a 2D game made by an animation studio like Wario was, though? They may have their high animation standards, but in general, 2D games in the game industry are not that fancy at all.

You forgot to mention the modeling, rigging/skinning and texturing for a 3D character in your comparison. Only if we were talking about an outline of a 2D character, without any colour or detail, could that comparison apply in that case. The computer doesn't do everything for you.

Also, speaking of tiling, tileable textures for 3D environments are difficult, especially if they're meant to be realistic.

And...since I can easily change the "skins" (textures) on a 3D model to make it a different character, what's stopping me from copy/pasting a goblin in 2D, and altering it in Photoshop? Same concept...batch colour change on each frame, no biggie.

So, you haven't convinced me ;]


Posted by 
 on: 10/20/09, 04:11:24
Oh, ok.


Posted by 
 on: 10/20/09, 04:45:31
Yikes. Calm down fellas!

Well, I'll just add my two cents to this one: having animated in both 2D and 3D, and having talked about this very subject a ridiculous amount of times...

...it completely depends.

2D can actually be fairly cheap to achieve nowadays, thanks to animation software such as Flash and Toon Boom. That said, the quality of your work and the man-hours put in will reflect how well the final product works.

Same with 3D: it can also be fairly cheap to produce, and in particular it makes doing repetitive animations easier (because you can use the same model without having to redraw it constantly).

Now... traditional 2D animation is absolutely more expensive... which is why it's done so rarely. A lot of that is all done digitally now.

How often is a 2D game made by an animation studio like Wario was, though? They may have their high animation standards, but in general, 2D games in the game industry are not that fancy at all.

I think that might be a bit unfair, because (and IMO this is part of the problem) the industry barely even does 2D games. It hasn't been until say, the last 2-3 years(?) that we really started to see more 2D games getting actual funding/backing.


Posted by 
 on: 10/20/09, 16:04:28
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