the Mouth of Madness:
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
What's up this week in loonygames? Ask our editor.
an you believe this is our tenth issue? It's amazing to think about, especially since we keep getting larger, and better (if I do say so myself, and I like to think I have some validity here) and this is just the beginning.
Enough self-glorification. It demeans us both (okay...so maybe just me, I can live with that). :)
We've got some great stuff for you this week, including Jeff Solomon's follow-up article to his first piece, Sick of Games (which coincidentally was our first featured article). We received lots of great feedback on the issue of video games and simulator sickness, and we're just getting warmed up. If you suffer from this, don't hesitate to drop us a line. Nobody seems to realize what a widespread problem this is, and we're going to do our best to make them wake up. So keep those letters a comin'! Drop a line to our feedback column with your thoughts.
Also up this week, is a special editorial from Jonathan Clark, the former owner of the sadly defunct Crack.com. If you aren't up on your gaming news, Crack.com announced their closing this week, sending a chill up the spines of many would-be developers. Jonathan will be addressing these issues in his editorial (look for it on Thursday).
Crack.com's death, in many ways, represents the end of an era to me. The gaming industry is really not the syrupy sweet place that the PR departments of publishing houses would like you to think it is...in many ways, it's a brutal, harsh system, where the little guy often gets screwed over supremely (or in the case of Crack.com, the moderately little guy).
Crack.com tried to break into a genre that was really supposed to take off: the 3D real time strategy game. Unfortunately, despite the moderate successes of Battlezone and Uprising, they were unable to find a domestic publisher, and ultimately, without the backing of a major company, they folded.
But while you might blame their genre of choice for their demise, why should any other one be different? As we speak, there are literally dozens of dozens of companies planning on cracking the infinitely crowded first person shooter genre, or the third person action game. Granted, both of these genres have top-tier hits to lure publishers, but how many of these new games are going to completely crash and burn? If you read my rant a few weeks back on the short attention span of gamers, you already know my feelings on the soon-to-be-overcrowded marketplace...the closing of Crack.com means that many developers may soon find themselves without a publisher at all...and therefore the Next Big Thing may never be made at all.
This represents a major paradigm shift for the industry (sorry to use a buzzword...but it's apropos). Just five years ago, a small development house cranked out a game that would change the face of gaming forever. The company was id Software, and the game, of course, was the phenomenon that became known as Doom.
Is it still possible to do this? It's doubtful, as Crack.com may have proven. These days, to fund a game's 15 month (at least) development cycle, you need a lot of money. A lot of money. Six guys in a garage aren't going to be able to afford that...and to get it, you need to strike a lucrative deal with a major publisher.
As companies like Activision and EA slowly move to publish games primarily from companies they own (or at least own a controlling interest in) we're going to see the extinction of the small developer. The rumors of Ion Storm's financial troubles aren't helping my projection...if Ion does turn out to be in financial distress (and note that there hasn't been any announcement concerning this, so this is based on speculation and hearsay from industry insiders) then large publishers will begin to scale back on those huge advances required to fund a game's development.
But hey...it's not all bleak. Lately, I've found myself rooting very strongly for Monolith's success. Not only have they published one of the more refreshing games in recent months with Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (i'm addicted...someone help me!) but they did so by self-publishing it. Add to that the fact that they may very well be the first gaming company to deal with Microsoft's evil empire and escape unscathed...and you've got someone to root for till the cows come home.
But it gets better. Monolith is taking a major gamble by self-publishing Shogo (and other games) but they're really taking a gamble by taking on the publishing reigns of other developers. If it works, then in a few years, Monolith could very well be a company of GT Interactive size and power. If it fails...then we could all be looking at the closing of the developer's garage. Something nobody wants to see happen.
Remember: without the hardcore garage style programmers, we wouldn't have some of the finest titles in our teeny history. Let's not switch to a seriously Hollywood style production system. That would hurt the industry, and most importantly, the would-be game designer.
This Week in loonygames:
Monday: Article: Still Sick of Games
Tuesday: Thinking Outside the Box, Pixel Obscura
Wednesday: Beaker's Bent
Thursday: Top Shelf, Guest Editorial ("Jonathan Clark")
Friday: Community Profile, The MailBag
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief of loonygames.
Credits: From the Mouth of Madness logo illustrated by and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 1998 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, you naughty boy, you.