Re: [stella] Why write for the 2600

Subject: Re: [stella] Why write for the 2600
From: Rob <kudla@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 24 Sep 2000 21:09:43 -0400
At 01:06 AM 9/25/00 -0700, Glenn Saunders wrote:
>What do you all think of this?  Must the game industry scale upwards in 
>budgets and development effort or is there room for a Blair Witch subgenre 
>to be profitable?  I mean, take a look at Square between Final Fantasy VI 

I believe that the "one man one game" subgenre hasn't changed at all from
the way it was 20 years ago.  Its practitioners are probably much greater
in number now since computers are so much more pervasive now.  People are
always going to get neat ideas for games and write them, whether or not
they expect to make money; it's just that 20 years ago, one guy could come
up with a game that was utterly state of the art.  

Now the state of the art is a little more.... expansive, not to mention
expensive.  Of course, the state of the art and innovative, entertaining
gaming are hardly ever joined at the hip anymore either, just as the big
movie studios rarely make the most innovative, entertaining films.

>and today.  They are the poster boys of out of control game projects.  If 
>this is what gamers EXPECT, then I think we might see a point in the near 
>future where it is theoretically impossible for game companies to recoup 
>their development funds.

I'm starting to sense that you might not grasp some people's motivations
for developing games, especially the kind we're talking about here.  

A good game, nicely presented, will sell itself appropriately.  That is to
say, some new original game akin to Tetris is not necessarily going to be
able to sell for 60 bucks, but you might be able to attract eyeballs if you
put it on your site or throw a "sponsored by" ad in it.

But how much "development funds" are required to write a "neoclassic" type
of game in Shockwave?  And does one guy hacking out games on the weekend
count as a game company?  I'm thinking of something like a Bomberman or Chu
Chu Rocket, something "new" and fairly original where the work goes into
dreaming up the concept to begin with but it's simple to implement as long
as you can do it in an eye-catching fashion.  

And the truth is, most of the people developing this sort of game never
hope to recoup their "development funds", nor hold out any hope of being
"profitable".  For example, a number of us allow Hozer Video to make carts
of our projects.  I don't take a cut from mine, being that they're just one
demo and two hacks, but for those who do... does anyone really feel like
it's been an "unprofitable" experience?  Like you haven't "recouped your
expenses"?  Probably the idea just hasn't occurred to you because it wasn't
your motivation in the first place.  The same goes for a lot of the
musicians on, as well as those who don't bother to avail themselves
of (like myself.)

I think that your real competition (or rather, that of your putative
audience) will turn out to be not Square and id (per se) and Eidos, but the
hundreds of people who are willing to make compelling little games on their
own time and release them as free-binary or open source.  These are the
games that don't need a marketing department to spread, because people can
just email them to one another like that foolish "frog in a blender" thing.
I don't know if a portal exists for that sort of thing, but I hear of them
all the time via email and sites like - I'm sure something
similar exists for Windows.  Remember the "Skunny the Squirrel" line of
free-binary DOS games in the early 90's?  At the time you'd get that kind
of game from shareware vendors at computer shows more likely than the net,
but that kind of author is still out there in droves and developing for
every platform.  Now, though, he usually has a web page with screenshots.

I'm always downloading open source games, and they aren't always of the
"bad knockoff of Pacman" mold.  Yesterday I downloaded a pretty neat
platform scroller called LOSER Corps. from  It
was designed by more than one guy, but I'd put it at about the same level
as, say, Jazz Jackrabbit II from a couple years back.  Even has net play.
Naturally, there are a lot more where that came from.  

And of course none of this takes into account the largely illegal side of
emulation, namely the increasingly organized ROM-swapping that goes on for
every system from RCA Studio II right up through the N64.  Even id has
released the Doom and Quake sources, and there are endless variations on
those two games downloadable by anyone for nothing.  All of these would be
your competitors, and they have a real leg up on you if you're hoping to
actually get money for "neoclassic" games.  It's akin to's problem
where they're competing with all the illegal mp3 swappers, only some of
your competitors would actually be legal.

I know you've always been very aware of products and deals and
marketability, but I think many or most of us who have been gaming and even
writing games for the last couple of decades, especially for the old
machines, are a lot more concerned with just writing a cool game (i.e. the
play's the thing) than building market share with it.  I've got a really
good day job.  It has nothing to do with games.  This stuff is what I do
for fun.  I can only assume that's true for the people with actual talent
around here as well.

So, how about this:  you could just aim the site at small-time game
developers whether they have commercial aspirations or not, and base your
business model on ad revenue from tool makers and other companies aimed at
that kind of market.  It's not even that dissimilar an idea from the model - I know personally at least a dozen artists who do use, and most of them are more interested in exposure and taking part
in the community of musicians than selling CD's, even though one or two
have also made money from their presence there.  It also seems to work for
non-game-related developer sites like and
If there are no game-specific portals like that out there, it looks like
you've got a niche to fill.  I'd sure be interested.

Sorry to go all Dennis Miller on you like that.  I certainly go on at times.


kudla@xxxxxxxxx ... ... Rob

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