COMMERCIAL GAMES AND CREATIVITY

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People often tell me I should try making money out of my games. My answer always is: I would never do that. And the reason is: I feel that from the moment I decide to make a game meant to be SOLD instead of freely distributed, it would affect my decision making in ways that would make the game less daring, more conservative, less creative, and overall of a lesser quality. Of course I tend to worry about what will people think of my game, but I never had to worry whether people would buy my game, or HOW MANY people would buy it.

People usually tell me I'm wrong, that one thing is not related to the other. But today I came acrosse the following scientific paper that seems to support my idea:

"individuals given rewards seem to work harder and produce more activity, but the activity is of a lower quality, contains more errors, and is more stereotyped and less creative than the work of comparable nonrewarded subjects working on the same problems". [LINK TO PAPER]

Opinions?
Mirak
Stand back. Artist at work. I paint with enthusiasm if not with talent.
9505
The paper is right. You only have to see any serious discussion about commercial projects to realize they're all discussing the best way to make the game "engaging" in a way that is as "engaging" as everything else in the market (oh, they also say "the same BUT different") so that people will buy it, because people are predictable and will gravitate towards familiarity more than they will gravitate towards new things.

Of course, new things do exist, things that dare to try and break the mold, but they take the huge risk of being an all or nothing deal when it comes to public interest. You have to be willing to invest a lot of time and money in your project in order to have it ready for prime time (You can't be an excellent writer, musician, artist and programmer at the same time. If you want your game to excell in all areas, you're going to have to spend something to bring in the talent you don't have so that your game doesn't lack in any department, otherwise people will be quick to point out the mistakes and your game's success will suffer dearly for it), and there are so many factors that will take part in the overall success of the game that ALSO take a great deal of investment to realize. A terribly huge investment that only increases if you don't have the talent to polish the game up to the best possible standards. Investment that might net you a huge loss if the game flops, and considering most people are hobbyists trying to make a few bucks instead of people knowledgeable on marketing, branding, etc. Flopping is more than a possible chance.

All of this takes a huge toll to your creativity to the point that when people tell you that you CAN do it, but that you have to do it differently than everybody else you get angry and retaliate with "what the fuck does that even mean?". Ok well i'm projecting a bit there. But it's true!
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5331
Does every work need to be daring?
Mirak
Stand back. Artist at work. I paint with enthusiasm if not with talent.
9505
Depends on the genre of the game you're making i guess. I can tell flappy bird wasn't a daring project, but something like Papers Please definitely was. For this case i'm guessing we're talking about RPG's made in stuff like Rpg Maker. Considering the deluge of commercial games made for that engine, both great and shit, you really need to buy expensive makeup for your game to shine through if this is your objective.
There's a difference between making a game for money and making money from your game. I mean, you could just do how you do and sell it for money anyways, with the attitude of "if I make some bank, great, if not, oh well". I don't think most online distribution methods require a huge upfront investment or anything. Places like itch.io also let you sell you game for "pay what you want", so... it's basically "DL the game and maybe donate to me?", if you're concerned about the price tag limiting your player base.
Mirak
Stand back. Artist at work. I paint with enthusiasm if not with talent.
9505
author=turkeyDawg
I don't think most online distribution methods require a huge upfront investment or anything..
Besides itch.io, which ones are there that don't require a sizeable investment? When i say sizeable, i mean that it at least lets you make up what you lost in the investment within the lifetime of your game.
Commercialism isn't some great divide that inherently limits the amount of creative control that you have on your project in all possible instances. Going with what turkeydawg said, you could very much make a passion project into a commercial endeavor and keep going as you always do. It's a matter of what level of commercialism you're looking at, what kind of investment you've put into the project, and so many other factors.

And let's not pretend that there aren't free games out there that pander, make concessions, and play it conservatively. These facets of decision-making can affect any game, not just ones that cost money.
I think he might've meant "games made for commercial continuum," or games where you really try to make a business out of things. Because, let's say you sell a game you made out of passion, that took you a long time to make. It did OK! But you think, "uhhhh... this took me 8 years to make. Would I be able to make up the difference if I were to make another...??" I don't think there's any way ANY game that takes 8 years to make is going to break even on development costs, especially if you're just one person. Time is the enemy in commercial projects, and they incorporate that mentality into the production process.

Because of this, production has to be executed with razor's-edge precision, which might limit creativity and lateral thinking.

Let's say, a relative of yours happened to die and leave you some money in his or her will. Enough for 2 years of game development. Could you quit your day job and finish a passionate project made from scratch in time? Enough to release it on time, possibly make a profit, and earn enough for another 2 years in development? Would you have employees to pay? How about marketing?
author=Mirak
Besides itch.io, which ones are there that don't require a sizeable investment? When i say sizeable, i mean that it at least lets you make up what you lost in the investment within the lifetime of your game.

tbh it's not something I've looked into for a number of years, and I don't know what the average return is for indie games.
Like, I just kind of assumed that Steam Greenlight's $100 entry fee isn't unreasonable to expect to make up, but I don't actually know. But, Greenlight will be gone soon, so... I remember Xbox's indie market having a similar entry fee, but I've also heard some pretty shitty things about working with that service. No idea what it's like now.
Sorry to disappoint with my not actually knowing anything :(
I haven't really seen any free games that compare to games such as Hyper Light Dirfter, Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy, Sunless Sea, To the moon, ect... Of which all happen to be commercial projects. This isn't saying that commercial projects are inherently better, but obviously they can be.

author=turkeyDawg
There's a difference between making a game for money and making money from your game.
author=turkeyDawg
There's a difference between making a game for money and making money from your game.


Again, what he said. I don't think making your game commercial will inherently make it worse or more conservative; you just have to look at some of the most successful indie games out there: Undertale, Minecraft, The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, Crypt of the Necrodancer... They weren't AAA style in any way, and yet they sold well. Hell, some of them sold so precisely because they weren't conservative.

Even if you are convinced selling your game in a "traditional" way would make it worse, there are ways around that: Itch.io, mentioned above, would be like making a game for free but guilt tripping allowing the players to make a donation. If you're serious about the project, Kickstarter might also be a good idea by virtue of getting people who like your idea to fund you so you don't have to worry about making back the investment so much. Or you could just make the game and decide whether to sell it or not after the fact.
the fuck are you doing here calunio?
Any time there's payment involved there's a conflict of interest. BUT if you're making the game by yourself, then choosing to sell it shouldn't affect the game, right? I mean you still have full control of the project and it's still a labor of love. The paycheck theory only applies if you're employed by someone else.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5331
author=Darken
the fuck are you doing here calunio?


Not selling any games, obviously!
Corfaisus
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
7419
How about you make the game first then sell it? Makes more sense to me.
More on topic I think the driving factor of profits is whether or not you have something to lose. If you made and sold a game with an RPGmaker engine, it's pretty vague on how much you want to make "back" per say, the only tangible investment you've made is whatever you paid for the engine or any assets you hired freelancers for (if you did). Time is of the bigger but more subjective investment but I assume the willingness to pursue your passion outweighs wanting to be paid for every hour you did on your thing, the exception of course as long as you're not using other peoples charitable time.

AAA games just have a lot to lose, the developers were already paid/funded, and they have to make money back so the publishers will pay them again for the sequel or at least seem marketable to other funding. There's likely 200+ people working on these projects anything from programming to marketing to management and they all have their jobs resting on the success of the game. However there isn't a truly safe game. Final Fantasy was once the CoD of its time and some day CoD will be uncool, no one knows what will be the next big thing.

If you're willing to accept the worse case scenario I think it's pretty easy for the creative side to remain seperate from the business. HOWEVER what if your game becomes a hit and sells millions or just enough to gamedev fulltime? Then I think you're greatly affected by what to make next. Not just because you want to continue the cash flow but what is expected of you, do you make an obvious sequel (somewhat guaranteed money) or make whatever you want to make? Does the profits even mean you have to make another game? Is your incentive to create already met due to the success? Do you even think you 'deserved' the success? (imposter syndrome). But uh, I'd wouldn't worry about that until you get there at least.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5331
Yeah generally the reason most big commercial games end up soulless is because whoever's in charge of the purse strings insists on paring it down to something that resembles whatever's the most popular property at the moment. (Usually because those people don't actually care about games at all and just think "Beep boop, lots of people are buying this, clearly if I just copy it, lots of people will also buy this, because it's not about what people like to play, it's about hitting all the items on a checklist. I know a lot about how humans work, beep boop!")
Corfaisus
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
7419
author=Sooz
"Beep boop, lots of people are buying this, clearly if I just copy it, lots of people will also buy this, because it's not about what people like to play, it's about hitting all the items on a checklist. I know a lot about how humans work, beep boop!")

Introducing microtransactions/pay-to-win on a game that allowed its players to earn everything if they simply worked hard enough and paid the base subscription fee? What could possibly go wrong? Oh, it was all the investor's fault? Well at least the company itself is still smart enough to run their game.

What? People weren't happy with one of the biggest changes the company itself implemented in the game? Maybe they just need to get over themselves? Or maybe they should just give up and undo all the work they've put in over the past decade...

As of the time of this post, there are currently 101,422 players online in Runescape 3 and 61,135 players online in Old School Runescape. These numbers account for the army of bots/gold farmers that plague each game, meaning the popularity of both games are debatable.
I never sell my games. Why? Hmm, good question. First of all, I got a job and my demand to buy any luxury is pretty much zero (other than one game per month), so I don't really need more money. Second, I don't think anyone would actually buy my games. Third, I really just make games because I want to play them myself. If others enjoy this thing I made as much as I do, I'm happy alone from that. Fourth, I really just want people to play my games, they shouldn't be required to pay money for that, because I probably get more enjoyment out of them playing my games than they get!

I guess that's it.

I'm honestly not worried about my game design depending on money decisions either way, as I'm not in the need of money. The only reason to sell a game for me would be that it might get more known if it's listed on game stores.
author=calunio
People often tell me I should try making money out of my games. My answer always is: I would never do that. And the reason is: I feel that from the moment I decide to make a game meant to be SOLD instead of freely distributed, it would affect my decision making in ways that would make the game less daring, more conservative, less creative, and overall of a lesser quality. Of course I tend to worry about what will people think of my game, but I never had to worry whether people would buy my game, or HOW MANY people would buy it.

People usually tell me I'm wrong, that one thing is not related to the other. But today I came acrosse the following scientific paper that seems to support my idea:

"individuals given rewards seem to work harder and produce more activity, but the activity is of a lower quality, contains more errors, and is more stereotyped and less creative than the work of comparable nonrewarded subjects working on the same problems". [LINK TO PAPER]

Opinions?


It all depends on what market you're trying to tap. If it's people who like Polymorphous perversity and Dungeoneer, I don't think you should even care about Conservatives and such. You will have your own fanbase and you should cater to that and not care about naysayers who aren't even your customers.


You don't have to censor your games for Steam, not even Polymorphous perversity. Steam has literal anal sex shown in a commercial game that's being sold. The graphic buttsex is even in the screenshots of said game. Steam doesn't care as long as you don't make a game that's political (Donald Trump shooter) or outright racist or such.


If you are not sure about reaching out your potential market, my company can help you with monetization of your games if you're interested. By the way, I was fan of Dungeoneer and did a let's play of that years ago.
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