Inner workings of the gaming industry??
@RiotPenguin, @IronStylus, any other rioter, or any fellow summoners also in the industry, I come to you seeking knowledge
A little about myself: I'm 18, a senior in HS, and about to move (permanently, not just for college) 9 hours away to Austin TX and attend UT-Austin. I want to obtain a masters in Computer Science and hopefully use that knowledge to continue developing my own game "Somnium" and start my own company :) I've had friends in the industry for 10 years or so, and I love talking about how it works and what not.
BUT ANYWAYS.. I just thought about this today and realized I only half-way understand: Some companies, such as the wonderful Riot Games, both 1) develop and 2) produce their game(s). However, other companies, such as Microsoft, only publish. Some like Blizzard have a couple divisions of the parent company but mostly work similar to Riot, that the company itself fully develops AND publishes.
So I'm curious: What is the common thing? Or is there one? Since I want to start my own company, how realistic is it to plan to both develop AND produce my own game, rather than developing and signing to a larger company for production (like the team for Darksiders did if I'm not mistaken)? If you have experience in the industry, are you biased to one method or another? This whole system just confuses me and I don't know benefits to one side or the other
Thanks for any insight :)
Hmm.. this is a wider development questions but I'll answer as best I can.
One cool thing! You're near Austin! That's a huge plus. There are a whole lot of developers there.
There are all types of companies as you'll see on that list. Developers, publishers, independent, mobile, etc. It's really your choice honestly. A developer and publisher is going to be a pretty big company, like and EA or a Blizzard. That might be a particular environment that excites you. If you're looking for smaller and possibly more hands on, you might want to seek out independent developers that do smaller titles or games for mobile. All companies have pros and cons. Size can be a "good" thing or a "bad" thing depending on your likes. One of the reasons I like Riot so much is because I worked at a lot of startups and Riot has the energy that I experienced in my startup days but has far more resources and steady release.
For your own game, that's a bit harder to answer. You might want to get some experience in a small/medium/large developer and meet people. Get to know other developers and see what you have in common. Lots of people start at larger companies and go on to make something themselves or with a smaller group of friends. It's all very wide open in the game industry, and it's only getting better as far as I'm concerned!
Bumping this for OP to see.. I'd like him to get his answer, even if it's a vague one =)
Bump for Justice! Ironstylus this is a really awesome chart. As a senior in college who is looking for a job in the gaming industry, you may have just made my night! :D
The full answer to your question is complicated, but I'll try to sum up the relevant parts. Basically, it's a combination of the scope of your project, and how quickly it must sell in order for you (or your company) to survive.
The easier part of your question is development. It's pretty easy to understand how the bigger the game you want to make, typically, the more developers you need. You can trade off between expensive senior developers who (hopefully) do more per person, but spend less on management and other supporting services.
Publishing is primarily about 3 things: funding, distribution and marketing.
Funding also has a relatively direct relationship. If you have a really small scope project, then funding can be living off savings. As the scope increases, funding can expand to friends and family, angel, a milestone-driven publishing deal, venture capital, or a partnership / acquisition. Usually, the more money you need, the more you have to trade off (ownership, profit sharing, etc). You're asking someone to take more risk on your behalf (you may never finish), so they get more of the potential take at the end.
Distribution must be chosen carefully depending on your intended audience. Making an indy PC game? Steam is a decent choice. They take a straight 30% per copy sold for a pretty commanding global distribution system. Making a mobile game? Apple Store also takes a 30% cut. Both cases do not guarantee that your game will even be advertised anywhere so it may stay buried unless there is some other way people become aware of your game (news, blogs, featured game lists, etc).
So, if you are making a 1-2 man project: ex: you as a programmer / designer teaming up with an artist, then you can potentially live off savings and publish through Steam / Appstore. If you want to propose the next epic FPS and need 100 artists, programmers, designers, producers, audio, and tech artists, then you're going to need to convince someone (usually a publisher) to give you money. Then you have your own independent company that develops the game. For example, Bungie @ Activision, Respawn @ EA, Insomniac @ EA, etc. Some games are internally published when the development studio is owned by the publisher, such as 343 @ Microsoft. Some games are internally published when the development studio is THE SAME company as the publisher like Riot. Some games like Darksiders is published (development funded and distributed for console) by THQ but the PC version is distributed by Steam / Valve. I believe Minecraft was initially developed alone by Notch then self-published / distributed as a download through their website (I could be wrong here), but is now distributed through many channels. There are a lot of different combinations and options inbetween that makes it seem more complicated.
I don't know how to explain that in a shorter way at the moment, but hope that helps!
In order for you to find your answer, I suggest you to study a little bit more about how these companies started their business operations.
Indeed, there are some basic differences between Blizzard/Riot Games and Microsoft. Microsoft wasn't a game developer/publisher when they started. They moved into the game industry later on because of the industry potential. In addition, I can't guarantee when this move became part of Microsoft's strategy.
Also, you are a little mistaken about Microsoft. They are game developers as well. Microsoft Studio is responsible for publishing and development. They purchased several studios in order to acquire this expertise.
I would say Blizzard and Riot Games were both small start-ups, but they might have changed how they develop/operate once they got more money into their business.
I think Riot only had around $1 million bucks (I am not really sure about this number) when they started, but probably got more money once Tencent Holdings entered their business.
So, if you are planning to open your start-up, I think you need to decide how much you believe your product and business plan. Riot and Blizzard took a huge risk, but they also achieved what they deserved.
To end my post, I would like to encourage you to follow Riot Games closely, I think they are a very brave company. I personally see Riot as more than a publisher/developer. They took the future of esports on their hands. This passion and commitment to our community is something I hope you have.
Good luck on your future endeavours.
Oh ho. A fellow trailblazer.
Have a bump, sir.
wow, thank yall so much for actually taking the time to reply to my thread! Made my day!
And don't worry about me missing red replies to my own threads -- i bookmark every one i post and check back frequently (even the ones that never get a reply, like my trundle skin inquiries :( )
This really helps me. I like to plan ahead.. have had my mind set on the whole moving to Austin, UT-Austin or bust, masters in Comp Sci and gaming industry, since 7th or 8th grade lol. Needless to say I'm super excited for August.
And though I'm only 18, I have had A LITTLE involvement in the industry. I've had an internship with a small indie company called Bandera Games for 4 years (turned into a paid internship a year ago). The team is literally one programmer, one website guy, one funder (afaik), and me as the community manager/forum mod/grammar guy. Progress is extremely slow since our one programmer has a full time job outside of the game ("BattleDex" if you're curious - name's bubbles) and he just moved to CA. But just from this little job I learned a good bit about how to handle myself in certain situations and what not. After playing the Blizzard Trio (WoW, Sc2, D3) and constantly getting nowhere on their forums, I vowed to make every thread on MY forums read by me and/or another dev. And once I came to LoL 7 months ago and began lurking the forums... I realized how huge of a difference that really made. I don't know WHY, but y'all make my day simply by replying to my threads, even for something unrelated to the game like this
I also went to 5 or 6 10-day overnight things called "Gamecamp" at ULL. Basically about 10 or 15 guys and girls working in the industry in Austin came over to Louisiana and led us to teach us about the industry. We split up into teams of 4-8 and brainstormed our own game concept. Then we had to learn how many devs of each kind we'd need, how much it would cost, the target audience/rating, etc etc etc. We put all this into a powerpoint and at the end of the camp, they brought in funders around the industry to give us feedback as if we were honestly trying to get our concepts funded. So fun :) One of those developers is the reason I have my internship now, and I still talk to many of them about their jobs from various companies. It's really a humbling experience
My ultimate hope is that one day if I manage to make enough money (granted I'm planning for a job I can look forward to every day, not that pays well), I want to keep this kind of thing running so other guys can have the same opportunities I did. The camps I went to ran out of funding about 4 years ago, but it was just such an amazing experience and I learned so much. Made lifelong friends. Met contacts in the industry.
And while we're talking about the industry, I have another question. I know programming is a great tool and all, but it shouldn't be the ONLY thing I can do since I want to make my own game. But what else should I learn? I've kinda been waiting for Unreal 4 Engine to be publicly released so I can teach it to myself, but I don't know if that's the best thing to spend time in, or something else?
EDIT (this paragraph): I just saw the news about THQ. That really sucks :( But since I mentioned darksiders in my OP, let me ask this: What happens in this case, where the disbanding company is NOT the developing company (vigil iirc), but IS the producing label? Does the developing company just find someone else to produce their games from now on, or is it more complex than that? And will the developing company be hit (hard or not as hard) financially by this change too?
Lastly, would any of you Rioters be willing to add me in-game to talk about something? I dont think it's something to put on the forums but really need help from someone working at Riot.
Once again, I really appreciate everyone's taking the time to share your knowledge with me :) Can't thank you all enough
Be weary of that gamedevmap site though, it's extremely outdated.
It is truly a sad today with THQ. It is really painful to see fellow brothers and sisters in the game industry go through these kinds of experiences. It is truly a rough business sometimes with a lot of risks. As cheesy as it may sound, I hope this kind of event demonstrates just how much care and passion it takes to keep at it despite all the risks. The folks affected are real people, with real families, that are trying to make fun games.
I don't know too many details about THQ's specific situation, and not sure I could say anything about it even if I did. However, it seems like Vigil is completely disbanding (based on today's news). I'm not sure what Vigil's direct relationship was with THQ. It may have been owned by THQ, in which case if THQ ceases to exist, then they usually try to sell off any part of it that's valuable (ownership of the developer / team, ownership of IP rights, etc). It could also have been that Vigil was independent, in which case, you rely on your own savings as a company to bridge the gap. If you can, you would try to find another publisher to pick up the deal to finish whatever game you had mid-way, or you develop a new deal and a new game for a new publisher. If none of that pans out and the money dries up, there's not much more to it.
Consider also how awesome of a reputation that Vigil has and how awesome Darksiders 1 and 2 were. It goes to show how difficult it is nomatter what you've done to keep a studio up and running. Either way, all you can sometimes do as a developer is just control the bit you can and work hard for players.
I really like your pay it forward attitude, and that will be a very useful principal to live by as you grow as a game developer. It's a relatively small industry and it's these types of good behaviors that help to build your reputation.
About Unreal 4, I say don't wait. Use what you can now, which is Unreal 3. It's been around for a while, but that doesn't mean it's old or bad. In fact, it means that more people, more games, and more studios know how to use it and you are actually developing skills that are directly applicable. There are plenty of things you can learn now, and when Unreal 4 comes out, you can switch.
Programming is always useful because picking up those skills means you don't really need to wait on or depend on anyone else to make stuff work. Even as a designer, programming skills are a huge help since so much of AI and spawns are set up through scripting (LUA, etc). Besides programming, it's useful to know your way around a level editor. There are lots of resources online where you can learn how to build your own simple levels in Unreal. Once you get some basics down, it's much easier to grow from there and add more to what you've built.
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