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Sense of Play 07: Anna Marsh, Creativity in the Balance


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Anna Marsh gave an excellent talk about the pressures exerted against innovation by the market and publishers, and how designers can work around them.

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Sense of Play 07: Anna Marsh, Creativity in the Balance

  1. 1. A Game Design Symposium
  2. 2. Creativity in the Balance Anna Marsh Executive Designer
  3. 3. Creativity in the Balance <ul><li>“ Risk Averse” – why publishers & game buyers play it safe </li></ul><ul><li>So what opportunities have we got for “creativity”? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Who am I? <ul><li>4 years publishing designer </li></ul>6 years development designer
  5. 6. Why Publishers need Designers <ul><li>Protect their investment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitor the game’s quality – whilst the producer checks schedule and budget </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Support the developer to make the best game possible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ensure that the game produced is the game that can be sold </li></ul></ul>
  6. 7. <ul><li>How can I know that the game I’m making is one that I can make a profit from? </li></ul>
  7. 8. P & L <ul><li>Dev Cost: £10m </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing Cost: £2m </li></ul><ul><li>Total Outlay: £12m </li></ul><ul><li>Profit Margin: £10 Unit </li></ul><ul><li>Unit sales to break even – 1.2 million </li></ul>Profit & Loss The Dreaded! (a simplified version  )
  8. 9. <ul><li>To make a profit on a reasonably big budget current gen console game, I might have to sell that game to 10 – 20 % of the installed user base (worldwide!) </li></ul>Cross platform = larger potential audience + +
  9. 10. Predicting Sales <ul><li>P&L is done before a game project has been signed to see if the project has enough potential sales to make profit. </li></ul><ul><li>To predict sales, the sales of other similar products are used as a benchmark. </li></ul><ul><li>If there are no other similar products…? </li></ul>
  10. 11. <ul><li>Compare to late PS2/Xbox development… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Less than half the dev cost </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Five times the installed user base </li></ul></ul>
  11. 12. Do we care about publishers?
  12. 13. <ul><li>“ Always think of the Punters” </li></ul>
  13. 14. The great game buying public <ul><li>Average (median) weekly pay for full-time employees in April 2006 = £447 before tax </li></ul><ul><li>Cost of a new game = average £35 - £45 </li></ul><ul><li>A new game is a big investment for most game buyers </li></ul>
  14. 15. Tie Ratio – games:console <ul><li>Number of games sold:PS2’s sold = 9.5 </li></ul><ul><li>That’s less than 2 a year. </li></ul>
  15. 16. “ Risk Adverse” <ul><li>Publishers want to minimise their risk – they want titles they can predict will sell. </li></ul><ul><li>Punters want to buy something they know they’ll enjoy </li></ul>
  16. 17. <ul><li>Is there any room for “Creativity”? </li></ul>
  17. 18. <ul><li>“ Too Blue” </li></ul>
  18. 20. Opportunities to be “creative” <ul><li>Be independently wealthy </li></ul><ul><li>Be Will Wright </li></ul><ul><li>Or Miyamoto </li></ul>
  19. 21. Lower dev costs = Lower Risk <ul><li>DS – relatively low dev costs, tons of punters, non-traditional gamers </li></ul>
  20. 22. P & L, DS SKU <ul><li>Dev Cost: £0.5m </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing Cost: £0.5m </li></ul><ul><li>Total Outlay: £1m </li></ul><ul><li>Profit Margin: £6 Unit </li></ul><ul><li>Break even sales: 166,666 </li></ul><ul><li>Only need to sell to tiny proportion of user base to make a profit. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  21. 23. Lower dev costs = Lower Risk <ul><li>XBLA/PSN/(Wii VC) – lower dev costs, lower price point, punters can take a risk </li></ul>
  22. 24. Bigger & more diverse audience <ul><li>PC “Casual” games – low dev costs, diverse audience and very easy access for audience. </li></ul>
  23. 25. Publishing gambles
  24. 26. Is this missing the point? <ul><li>Isn’t that just a list of exceptions to the rule? </li></ul><ul><li>OR </li></ul><ul><li>Isn’t that just a case of games conforming to a different type of punter? </li></ul><ul><li>OR </li></ul><ul><li>How is that relevant to ME? </li></ul>
  25. 27. What is Creativity? <ul><li>Innovation? </li></ul><ul><li>“ Artistic&quot; integrity? </li></ul>
  26. 28. Isn’t all development creative? <ul><li>Someone had to create that </li></ul>
  27. 29. <ul><li>All game design can be “creative” </li></ul>
  28. 30. “ Risk Adverse” <ul><li>Publishers want to minimise their risk – they want titles they can predict will sell. </li></ul><ul><li>Punters want to buy something they know they’ll enjoy </li></ul><ul><li>Publishers and punters want something they can understand and relate to. </li></ul><ul><li>This is not necessarily the same as wanting something boring and formulaic. </li></ul>
  29. 31. <ul><li>Avoid Appearing Risky </li></ul><ul><li>Mix new, creative elements with elements that people understand and relate to. </li></ul><ul><li>Publishers like to see new and “innovative” features in a concept they can understand. </li></ul>
  30. 32. Risky
  31. 33. Not Risky
  32. 35. <ul><li>Creativity does not only apply to the top line, high concept stuff </li></ul>
  33. 36. <ul><li>Mechanic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gears of War: Reload; Halo: Shield </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Weapon </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Half Life: Gravity Gun </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Control Method </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Metroid Prime: Use of Wiimote </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A Setting </li></ul><ul><ul><li>BioShock: “Rapture” </li></ul></ul>
  34. 37. <ul><li>“ Fragile Alliance” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>New form of multiplayer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Co-op to deathmatch gameplay </li></ul></ul>
  35. 38. Yeah, but… Creative Director Camera Designer Lead designer Lead Level Designer AI Designer Combat Designer Story Designer Level Designer Level Scripter Vehicle Handling Designer External Designer Multiplayer level Designer … what can I do about it? 1 Lead Designer 2 x Level Designers
  36. 39. <ul><li>“ Always think of the Punters” </li></ul>
  37. 40. <ul><li>Something never seen before in a level? </li></ul><ul><li>A new way to deal with health/death? </li></ul><ul><li>A new AI behaviour? </li></ul><ul><li>A really funky new weapon? </li></ul><ul><li>A great new intuitive control system? </li></ul>
  38. 41. Consider the punter… <ul><li>Player’s want a game they can understand; they want to have FUN! </li></ul><ul><li>What new creative element can you add to the game that will add to the player’s experience? </li></ul><ul><li>It’s pointless being “Creative” if no one plays your game </li></ul>
  39. 42. <ul><li>“ Always think of the Punters” </li></ul>