The time-eating Chronophage of Corpus Christi, Cambridge
Last week, we decided to have a think about games and time. This is one of a collection of posts that came from that thinking – Margaret’s consideration of how an individual game can live over time.
We like to think that there is no secret to making a good game, no magic bullet that shortcuts the unpredictable trials of testing and balancing and bug fixing and refining. We’re kidding ourselves, though. There is an absolute, guaranteed, three-step process for making a good game. It’s this:
- Take your current game
- Can it
- Go back to your last game and fix all that stuff you didn’t have time to fix
Unless you happened on perfection – unless your last game was Tetris or Frog Fractions – I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is a more certain route to a really good game than the new thing you’re currently working on.
If you’re a game company – anything from a lone indie to a AAA corporate – that’s probably a transition you’ve been making over the last few years. A decade ago ‘games as service’ was just a series of incomprehensible syllables. Now it’s the cornerstone of a process which expects to engage the player all the way through from a pre-alpha Kickstarter to 10th Anniversary Steam bundle, via a network of subscriptions and micropayments and DLC season packs along the way.
Where things get tricky is that the other change in the last decade is that game companies are now by no means the only people making games. Now all kinds of organisations are, and the transition that has been painful but fast for the games industry is often borderline impossible for brands, agencies and institutions.
Many things make taking a service approach hard – budgets are often run on a campaign-by-campaign basis, structures aren’t in place to support ongoing maintenance and content updates, working with a range external delivery partners makes reusing technology difficult.
Overcoming those problems, though, presents enormous opportunity. Players connect with games in deep, enduring ways. Good game projects age very slowly, offering a long tail of engagement that static content can’t rival. Projects we launched a year or go or more often continue to attract high traffic months after any marketing or press activity to support them has ceased. The calendar may move forward, a new campaign may begin, but that game and those players remain connected. The choice you face is whether to treat that connection as a disposable commodity or an investment opportunity.
Photo by: Margaret