Long prehistory in a nutshell:
Solution to the problem that touches you and building the company for this purpose – with no doubt is one of the strongest reasons to turn any startup into operating and scalable business in any area. However, the game industry, like no other, is full of uncomprehended plagiarism of successful ideas.
Shallow copying of form rarely saves valuable content for your audience. This article will save you from wasting time searching for the trend idea, which may already be exhausted by a few successful projects. Given the shortage of time and resources, you should focus on the really important things.
It is not so simple to determine the specific problem, which all your team members will solve passionately. We in INSENSEARTS have begun to develop the Descendants game, because once we have realized that the game we were ready to play together simply does not exist. However, as it turned out, things inspiring you and your friends will not necessarily be perceived by the others with the same enthusiasm.
In practice, to share your inspiration with others in an era of reduced attention and perception, you should find specific, simple and concise forms. Your main idea (which in some cases can be equated with the company's mission) can help a lot in generalization of the factors, mentioned above.
The main thought I want to share with you
To create a self-sustaining game and beyond that will make a profit, you need to put an interesting and new idea into it. This may be a good interface, interesting mechanics, fascinating art, etc. In one word, it is enough to treat the development of the game seriously and provide it with an addictive gameplay loop or a new emotions, story or style. I just want to say that socially useful purpose is not necessary for the successful monetization of the game project.
That's why the game industry scales without bringing any particular benefit to the player. This feature characterizes not only large developers. Accessible entrance to the gaming industry and free engines for development has spawned an army of developers competing up to scratch with industry giants for the successful idea. Indie developers headed by the standard-bearer Markus Persson have repeatedly proved that the game involvement can not be reduced to advantage in graphical realism.
As a result, at the moment the game industry has overtaken porn industry by a number of users. But can we say that such a wide audience of fans of video games somehow ensures a stable position of developers? Rather the opposite, because only original game inventions get public’s attention. It’s far from certain, that the creator of the successful idea will be able to repeat his success with a new game.
Therefore, under the conditions of an overabundance of games and technical capability to carry out any project, good gameplay chips or pile of new images may not be sufficient to give rise to a long-term engagement in the gaming experience. Under the conditions of access to any digital product, people are more and more inclined to prefer something really valuable and inspiring.
Attempt to cash in on the man, even with an addictive game, can hardly be regarded as a source of personal inspiration. Therefore really useful social mission pursued by developers may be the critical factor that separates the highly sought game and the waste of time.
Looking for the usefulness...
Largely due to the fact that the monetization can be implemented without any major mission or even without a positive meaning, most developers do not even consider such a problem setting appropriate. Nevertheless, many games change our standards of perception and reveal something new, without even setting themselves such a goal.
The desire to provide a steady monetization sometimes leads to the invention of new approaches and optimization of old ones. As a result, gaming market continues to grow, with almost no changes in its content-related part. A huge role is played by the analysis of statistics. It inevitably led to the creation of excessively efficient business models and game genres. And, according to game theory, this picture can remain unchanged for some time, while the current optimization techniques will work.
Games can be safely attributed to the category of commercial art. Developers, in an attempt to become visible, to come out of the shadow, to form a community, to get certain market share have to compete with each other. As a result, we see the development of free-to-play model, optimization of the game structure, increasing of interface usability, simplification of controls and game development based on the study of the human psyche. However, all these changes are local in nature, and only in part relate to the topic of this article. It is unlikely that we will find some kind of mission in all this stuff.
Should we expect good intentions from the leaders of the industry?
All of us have repeatedly heard this phrase: “The desire to change the world is praiseworthy”. And hardly anyone dares to put this idea into question. The desire to fix something broken in the world (perhaps originally marked only by the originator of the idea) is an essential attribute of building a successful business and self-fulfillment within a certain direction.
Of course, we mean something global. That is, the phrase “to change the world” means, of course, not an A/B testing or planned buildup of working model efficiency, but solving a significant fundamental problem that is beneficial for the people.
Of course, a number of major developers work on the problem of meeting the players’ need in entertainment and amusement through certain established genres. But why have we never heard even a hint of some clear socially important aim of their activities? Is it only because the game is an entertainment? And global vision has nothing to do with the entertainment, as, for example, it would not be appropriate to talk about the mission of the manufacturer of chocolates.
However, we in INSENSEARTS are sure – game development is not one of the faceless niche services. Games are the incredibly powerful interactive tool of storytelling, mechanism of social interaction and amusement (including educational purposes). Having the alternative of two activities, people are more likely to prefer classes with interactive game element, which is also supported by neuropsychic reward system in the brain.
Gamification, that is, entering game elements into different areas become more common. So to treat game development only as a service or product is irresponsible and short-sighted. Games contain a great positive potential that initially was used only for the growth of the audience.
Why, however, developers with huge budgets, efficient infrastructure and don’t set any global aims for themselves? (Profit maximization is a natural requirement of any business, and in no way contradicts the search of the public benefit) So, let us note the main reasons for this behavior and see if there are players on market who stick to non-trivial tasks:
- Responsibility for budget. From the perspective of searching for something new, big budget is an obstacle rather than an ally. Responsibility for preservation of the fragile financial balance imposes additional obligations on investment safety, stability and predictability on large companies. Any experiments with practically unconfirmed models can cost too much and end in bankruptcy.
- Fulfillment of the mass audience needs. Each game of a major developer is the result of a thorough market analysis and the needs of audience (or at least own understanding of these needs). In other words, each game is trying to comply with the infrastructure and the trends of the moment. And this, in turn, prevent from incorporating of all games under the banners of a single mission, and thus advancing towards systematic evolution of ideas from game to game.
- Exploiting of the faultless product line The larger the game, the more developers it requires. In practice, it seems incredibly difficult to scale the number of employees to a few hundred people remaining cohesive around a single vision. The vision worked out by people who stood at the origins of the company. So, it is much easier to take a scaled and tested scheme and arrange a line for creating of proven archetypes and pictures rather than a creative workshop.
- Social benefit is a delicate thing. Historical analysis of activities aimed at changing the world for the better suggests that such work is always associated with the active will of a person, a particular effort, self-sacrifice. Therefore, for example, even being aware of some specific benefits of the game, I doubt that someone would play it, provided that the expected entertainment is replaced with the necessity of an effort. Therefore, the benefit should be built into the gameplay at a very deep level, and not to interfere with the gaming interest. It is extremely difficult to develop such a mechanics, so a large company would hardly pay someone in the hope that in a few years they will get that blessed model.
As we can see, setting a global mission is rather difficult task for global market participants. Companies and their founders earn due to the continuously optimized game models, which were popular back in the days, when almost any alternative to a common table game was a success.
Underdevelopment of computer technology led to the fact that the games were simple but universal and fascinating in their simplicity. Subsequently, the same simple games started to get more and more sophisticated graphic embodiment, but their essence has not changed.
However, the time is changing, and the market is becoming oversupplied with the same type of content, and, of course, we are looking forward to fundamentally new games the aim of which is not to take away our time, but to enrich it with a new experience.
Devotion to your beliefs
You can use the same effective techniques to build a business, but the essence of the content of its activity is primarily determined by the purpose. Money is just some energy helping to resolve the issue HOW, but having nothing to do with the question WHAT. People find each other based on their priorities, unidirectionality of their faith.
People's faith (that is why it is a faith) ignores the question HOW. The fundamental point is the questions WHAT and WHY. So extraction of new money from existing money should not underpin the development of the game. It should primarily be a response to the question WHY. When we talk about the mission, we primarily mean social benefits. And the answer to the question of whether the game can change the world, as well as in any other common activity, is YES.
Profit of many companies, which proved it, was a result of a properly selected objective. For example, Telltale Games presented narration of stories in the games on a completely different interactive level. Oculus founded by Palmer Luckey got support at Kickstarter and subsequently created the trend of developments in the field of virtual reality. With a team of two dozens of people, developers from Hearthstone revived interest in the card games.
A clear vision of the mission can be the core of a company building for a number of years. Creative Assembly has been on the way of improvement of the Total War global strategy for many years. It offers us a significant historical narration, while constantly improving gameplay.
Or let’s an example of Rockstar Games, which focused on the specific purpose. They have been improving an initially very simple game for a number of years. As a result, they created a virtual world and become a multi-billion dollar corporation.
Therefore, the presence of the mission of company creating games can become a backbone factor of a long-term success. And here are some reasons, stating why development of the mission is a critical task, especially for young companies.
- Types of players whose preferences are quite different. So creating a sustainable community among the many abstract game novelties is only possible on the basis of unity around a specific idea.
- Even people who are unfamiliar with the project will be interested in it, if they share a positive belief of the developers in the value of their product. Therefore really important and useful things are always easier to distribute, including the viral way.
- Now, more than ever, there are many opportunities to make the game truly useful, as the development of technology, computing capacities, cross-platform, an iteration with social networks give developers a chance to make the game as a basis for the acquisition of a massive new experience by the player and, in particular, the educational experience.
- The long-term mission will allow you to concentrate on solving of a specific problem on the way to a new generation of games. As the current game models are the optimized versions of the very first games used to the maximum.
- Why should we create games that are not interesting to most of the developers themselves, in an attempt to catch up with some sort of mythical wider audience. Even if people can’t express something in words, it does not mean they are not ready to evaluate the proposed product seriously. Therefore, setting a mission is, first of all, a sign of sincerity, at least, with yourself.
2015, in terms of capacity of the gaming industry and attitude to the games, is fundamentally different from 1995 or 2005, despite the fact that the games have not fundamentally changed. There are extremely unusual and innovative projects, including those which have proved the profitability of their business models, but for the most part we are dealing with the same games as before, though, considerably more simplified and adapted to the widest possible audience.
Distinction between our time and the past is not in the games, but in the players themselves. The total share of players with a great gaming experience is constantly increasing in comparison with the younger generation, which is getting acquainted with the games for the first time. Experienced players can predict in advance everything awaiting them in the new game, upon the installation. And the ability of the human mind to generalize the standard events and draw conclusions gradually negates the possibility to keep interest in the game due to banal adding of a new content.
Familiar game mechanics, many of which allocated in the entire genres, are reanimated by the new decorations or attempts to add a few new features. However, this can not continue endlessly, because the need for a new experience and emotions is stronger than devotion even to the most favorite game of all.
It seems that simplification of the games, associated with the expansion of the audience due to casual players, is a temporary way to maximize profit. The majority of casual players, such as housewives, children and office workers identified themselves as the fans of casual games only by virtue of the fact that it was their first acquaintance with the games as a mean to pass the time.
Over the time, everybody who could get to know the games, has already done it, and experiencing the constant lack of spare time and preferring short but fun 2-minute play sessions, the people, of course, will not turn into hardcore players. Although we can expect for the growth of mid-core games ensuring the level of engagement for people who have learn to play.
Therefore, developing games, which are able to return interest to experienced players, is a much more promising activity than endless creation of the same type of patterns to find “whales” trapped in their preferences. We are only at the beginning of social game development. The games able to make each player won without mutual humiliation and discrimination will become more and more interesting.
In other words, the need for simple operation and fast, yet addictive gameplay, continues. But the content of the games should be much more sophisticated and more useful. And we are developing such a game, with a mission to reduce complex patterns of the real world to the intuitive game mechanics. Games should become not only a platform of players’ competition. They should help players to enrich with the real experience of interaction with the individuality of another player in order to apply this knowledge in the real life.
It is obvious that objective should not be ultimate, and suppose achievement of some formal event. Profit maximization can not be regarded as an objective - it is simply not serious for an adult straining after a full life. If we, for example, imagine people would live, say, 500 years on average, those who would set a goal to earn money, would have become a billionaire one day, for sure, due to the advice of super-motivators, psychologists and economists.
Venture capitalists, ready to give money to the person with the vision and the prototype, also offering the ability to automate and extend all of the routine nuances. That is why EVERYTHING that can be bought for money, cannot be the objective of the company - the value of such things is illusory and easily replaceable. Only the MISSION going beyond the banal calculation may be the banner of faith, thanks to which the real miracles are performed. The aim should go beyond the current state of affairs.
When creating the game DESCENDANTS, we do everything based on our goal – to embed Complex patterns of reality in an easy to operate and intuitive to understand mechanics of the game. We want to part brass rags with the current conditions of RPG battles where they are reduced to a mutual reduction of hit points and comparison of two numbers, adjusted for the probability to determine the winner.
For a few years already, computing power make it possible to create an algorithm by which almost all scenes of battles in modern science fiction blockbasters (exactly as you imagine them right now) can be implemented in the game mechanics. We are in the process of creating cinematic battles, procedurally generated in real time based on RPG mechanics of the new generation.