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Comment Re:Easy question (Score 1) 179

There are many more reasons than just the desire to enhance a game's mass market appeal which drive up development costs.

1. Top-Down Decision Making
When the game company is large, and especially if they're publicly traded, the things that happen on the front lines are planned and defined by top-level decisions like "We need to clear X revenue in Q3 of this next fiscal year" or "We need a product for the 8-13 year old demographic in WalMart in November" or "We need to develop a game which includes themes X Y and Z because they are popular right now" or "We have this license or technology, and even though the game will suck, it will sell enough copies to justify making another game with it."

None of these decisions are made with game quality, story, depth, or innovation in mind. They are business decisions which result in a cascade of semi-creative decisions being made down the line until finally the game is done. But those creative decisions are all beholden to the one great decision in the sky that started the development process. The people actually doing the work usually have limited control over the details, as often the content, themes, and "points to hit" are defined by market research or shareholders or other stuff that has nothing to do with whether games are fun or innovative.

What this does is create a process that just has money and hype as inputs, a pre-defined product as an output, but has no good feedback mechanism for the people doing the work to steer the process. The people at the top will assign X number of warm bodies to work on this project with a certain deadline, and come hell or high water, something will be released then. Nothing about the process is agile, money and time are constantly wasted. The brain is disconnected from the body, and even if it were connected, they wouldn't speak the same language. Corporate doesn't understand design or development, they just know that history suggests they will get more money back than they spend if these people do their job and follow the plan.

2. Staffing and Technology
If you're targeting WalMart, or volumes on similar scales, you need large teams. The smallest team I've ever developed a retail video game on was still around 10-15 engineers, around 5 designers and producers, a dozen artists and modelers, a few sound and music people, plus the managers and development directors overseeing the people and technology on the project. All these people need full workstations, usually with multiple monitors. The artists need tablets. The engineers need console development kits from Sony or Nintendo which are usually pricey as shit. Everybody needs some IT support, artists need tool and pipeline support, engineers need build/release management support, and then the entire project needs to have a full QA/Testing staff with their own retinue of workstations, tools, procedures, and support roles.

You can make smaller games, but you really need to have brilliant and multi-talented people in every position as your team shrinks, or else you just won't have the bandwidth or knowledge to deal with the problems of game development. It's still possible to find new ideas that can be quickly and simply shaped into an amazing game, but it's getting harder and harder to do that with single digit numbers of employees, and those simple but potent ideas are few and far between.

Even if you do find a small and talented group of people to develop a visionary game, executing that plan properly in an environment dominated by multinational conglomerates and 8-figure budgets is very tough. It's a competitive ecosystem. Even if you have a simple concept, so much is required of software these days. It needs to be fast, stable, socially connected, interactive, and well produced. There should be attention to detail in localization, testing, and distribution. There should be community and customer interaction from the developer(s)/publisher and good support for when things go wrong. Sometimes you can get away without many of these things, but the big dogs and some of the smaller dogs will have most or all of these features. In order to compete or just to avoid complaints about lacking features, you need to do this stuff too, which increases your design and development time regardless of what your game is about.

3. Marketing and Promotion
It costs a lot to market games these days unless you can leverage novelty or viral media or some other free thing that makes you stand out. If you're already an established company, there's a limit to the amount of free press you can get. Everything else costs money -- lots of it. It costs money to design ads, make them, test them, deploy them, and follow up with customers to make sure they're engaged. If you're doing something safe or already familiar, you gain a lot of ground in the marketing department because your idea is already easier to convey. This stifles innovation because it's easier and cheaper to use existing ideas or themes people already know than it is to find the right way to present something totally new.

I could go on, but I have to get to work to make another half-assed game a major studio wants to churn out like a soulless piece of equipment on an assembly line just because it's better for the stock price than making a riskier but higher quality game. My point is that game development has become an entire industry driven by non-designer, non-developer, and non-creative interests. In the absence of truly remarkable people in positions of leadership and power, the trend is higher cost and scope with lower quality and innovation.

Comment Re:The Slashdot system seems to work pretty well (Score 1) 393

I believe you touched on part of the core issue, that apropos of nothing, the average citizen's opinion on the average news story is not worth printing. The trick then, as part of a comment/moderation system, is to put some purpose or function behind it that is more than just airing a personal opinion.

What if a comment/user feedback system was built in to the news article publishing system? What if users could submit corrections, related stories, updates, and other valuable pieces of information that an editor, moderator, or AI could then integrate into the article itself (or somewhere above the fold of general comments)?

This doesn't in theory solve the problem of requiring skilled moderation, but it changes the name of the game from "say anything you want" to "say something productive in a specific format".

You could also combine this with features like thumbs up/down buttons or less personalized ways of expressing a general opinion (similar to the scoring of posts here)... What if below each article it just had tallies of how many readers found the article (Interesting | Insightful | Biased | Incorrect | Noteworthy)... then people can make their opinion known without words that nobody wants to read.


Submission + - Diebold's e-voting software found vulnerable again

Futurepower(R) writes: "A new report commissioned by the Florida Department of State says, 'A flaw in the optical scan software, for example, enables a hacker to introduce an unofficial memory card into an active terminal before the polls open, according to the report. "This memory card can be preprogrammed to redistribute votes cast for selected candidates on that terminal, including swapping the votes for two candidates," it states.'

Reading that quote from a technically knowledgeable university researcher in a TechNewsWorld article, you might think that changes will be made. But the non-technical press sometimes reports e-voting vulnerabilities very differently.

For example, in this Associated Press article in a business publication, the non-technical press accepts a response from a 'spokeswoman' that changes the subject to 'voting system reliability', which includes hardware and other failures that don't affect the vote count. Sample quote from an article titled, Voting Machine Companies Attack Review, 'Voting system reliability is something we're always working at improving,' said Michelle Shafer, a Sequoia spokeswoman. 'Security is never finished.'"

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