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2008 in hindsight, Part 2 of 3

2008 in hindsight, Part 2 of 3

Postby Chris » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:26 pm

Read Part 1

In the midst of all of this, my time was getting squeezed. I’d come into London on Tuesdays and spend all day in meetings, sometimes with Channel 4, sometimes with the Defcon DS project, sometimes working on Xbox, sometimes on Multiwinia. I’d usually spend at least another day or two working directly on getting Multiwinia finished, leaving just a couple of days a week to do Subversion. But crucially, work was proceeding. I was making huge strides and felt I was right on the edge of nailing the core game – and it was at that very moment, the worst moment possible, that Chronometer kicked in. Chronometer was entirely externally funded by C4, and we’d hired our writer (Chris Hastings) and our concept artists, and the start date was fixed along with the exact duration of three months, with milestones all along the way. It all came to a head just before the project started when I literally begged Mark not to force me to do this project, even though I knew we’d committed ourselves to it months earlier, and there was no going back. So there was no getting out of it, no putting it off – these people were actually coming to my house to work, and I was supposed to be leading the project. This was a hard experience, to wake up excited about Subversion, but to know that Chris Hastings would arrive at around 10am expecting us to work together all day on that project. Ultimately there was only one choice for me – I had to summon my professional alter-ego and give up on Subversion altogether. Between Chronometer and Multiwinia and my weekly visits to London, my time was completely booked up. Subversion was on hold again.

In the end myself and Chris Hastings turned in a pretty decent project on time and to budget, with some incredible writing (his doing, not mine), some awesome concept artwork (again, not mine) and some intriguing ideas in the gameplay and setting that I felt were very unique. We delivered a massive pre-production document to Channel 4 (about three inches thick), complete with designs, scripts, pictures, timelines, budgets, project plans, risk registers, the lot. It was actually very professionally done in the end, something to be proud of. But internally I felt the project was considerably less interesting than Subversion, and was also a long way out of our comfort zone and area of expertise – the project called for a team of artists and some serious engine tech, something we’d never done before.

Multiwinia was finished and we were gearing up for launch during July and August. We followed our long standing tradition of delivering the release builds of the game to Future Publishing in person, taking as many of the writers and journalists and editors out as we can for a curry along the way. Future Publishing basically own all the PC Games mags in England, so this always works very well, and they’re staffed by a great bunch of guys and girls, many of whom we remain in regular contact with. (In fact one ex-future publishing writer was Channel 4’s games adviser on the Chronometer project – small world) But this time around it was a little different. Impossible to pin point exactly, the atmosphere had changed, Future were noticeably less interested in our game this time around than our last visit with Defcon in 2006, and we started getting early hints that something was wrong with the game.

Image
(Introversion at Future Publishing)

Despite several iterations of playtests and interface work, somehow, we’d missed it. Later that night at the pub after demoing our game, some of the writers from PC Gamer came clean with us. You’ve really fucked up the controls, they told us. It was a consistent message from everyone we spoke too. The opinion of this team remains very important to us, not because they are more influential than any other journalist, but because they are usually the first to see the game – their responses usually ‘predict’ the overall response we will receive globally. They are our litmus test on the quality of the game we’ve made.

Another massive redesign followed. Ultimately we solved the interface problems and the game was made immeasurably better because of it. To be clear, we are hugely grateful to those guys at PC Gamer for being so honest with us. We told all the journalists to hold off on reviewing the game, and that we’d supply a new build a month later than planned. Vicky Arundel was clearly annoyed by this – she’d done an amazing job at arranging big online reviews in exchange for great coverage, and now we were ruining that plan. In addition, print magazines need months of lead-time before your review is published. So we were effectively ensuring that the print reviews would all be coming out at least a whole month late after the game launched. On top of this, our first ever Magazine Cover featuring a massive Red Darwinian (carefully arranged by Vic) fell through, and another print mag told us they weren’t interested in reviewing the game.

The game finally shipped on PC (on sale on our website, on Steam, and in the UK high-street through Pinnacle) and we celebrated with a launch party at our house. Tom had always fantasised about building a sales counter that would sit in the corner of the office and tick up whenever we sold a copy of a game. This time around he actually did it, building the device out of second hand parts bought from Ebay and writing custom driver software for it that linked directly to our Multiwinia sales counter. During our launch party dinner and celebrations that evening, what was truly amazing about this counter was how little it was actually going up. I’m not kidding when I say that we actually checked the connections and the software several times to make sure it was actually working, only to find out it was. Even then that very night we knew it was bad, that our whole future was in doubt.

Read Part 3
Last edited by Chris on Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby NeatNit » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:42 pm

:cry:



I really want to say something about this, I just don't know what.
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Re: 2008 in hindsight, Part 2 of 3

Postby Xocrates » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:50 pm

Chris wrote:You’ve really fucked up the controls, they told us. It was a consistent message from everyone we spoke too.

Well, other than the Beta testers really. Though you guys were probably right, that wasn't exactly one of the most consensual times in the Beta.

I can only imagine how much worse it felt for you guys.
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Postby Rkiver » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:51 pm

The future in doubt? Talk about ending on a cliff hanger!
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Postby jelco » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:20 pm

I think the reason we as beta testers had a different opinion about those controls is that most of us were used to Darwinia already. Darwinia surely has peculiar controls but they work fine for that world. In Multiwinia, everything speeds up immensely and learning those same controls for the first time gets a hell of a lot more difficult. That, and the legacy made for some confusing inconsistencies if I recall correctly.

Well, I will say once again that I never expected Multiwinia to be a success anywhere near either Darwinia or Defcon, because it had far less novelty value than both due to the setting being Darwinia, and it was less accessible than Defcon, with a more arcade-ish feel to it. Surely the random factors make it less of a die-hard strategy game than Defcon, as lots of people pointed out both before and after release.

That being said, expectation doesn't diminish disappointment, and I'm sure that goes for you more than anyone around here.

Jelco

PS: I have to say that it feels a little relieving that this is writting in hindsight, as something that has already happened. Otherwise I'm sure I would expect the decline of IV in the final post. :(
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Postby faemir » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:46 pm

I don't know what to say, other than I really hope things pick up for you. I will say that I really enjoy playing all your games though, and will continue to buy them! (Though a multiwinia linux client would be welcome, but no rush)
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Postby xander » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:57 pm

jelco wrote:I think the reason we as beta testers had a different opinion about those controls is that most of us were used to Darwinia already. Darwinia surely has peculiar controls but they work fine for that world.(

Oddly enough, I tried to play Darwinia again recently. I have been playing Multiwinia so much, and the controls are so different, that I actually had a really difficult time playing Darwinia. The controls in Darwinia feel muddy, backward, and inconsistent after playing so much Multiwinia. I honestly didn't think (during the beta) that the controls were that much of a problem, and I never really thought that the changes were a great leap forward, but going from Multiwinia to Darwinia is night and day.

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Postby NeatNit » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:00 pm

Same thing happened to me, except my attempt to play Darwinia after Multiwinia was a whole while ago.
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Postby factoid » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:09 pm

Wow, sad story.

I can only speak for myself, here but I think this is something that bears some consideration: I didn't buy Multiwinia when it came out because a) I didn't get into the Beta and b) I really wanted to play it on the 360. Getting into the beta (though admittedly I signed up very late in the game) might have encouraged me to buy the PC version immediately. Somewhere in the last two years I pretty much turned into a console gamer. I know I'm not alone in this. I still love PC gaming, but now when given the choice between PC and Xbox I choose the xbox version every time. 5 years ago this would have been unthinkable to me.

The beta might have hooked me, but maybe not. I do kind of suck at RTS games, but Multiwinia looks different, so I'm going to give it a shot when it hits the console. I hope a lot of other people will as well. I'm a big fan of Introversion games, but I'll "shoot you straight" and tell you that something just didn't feel right when I went to go buy Multiwinia. I literally had the order form filled out for a limited edition set, but I hit cancel because something compelled me to wait for the xbox version. I wanted to be really excited. I wanted to love it. I still hope to and I will definitely check out your demo on Arcade when it launches. I'm not especially hard to please, and I'm not especially picky about games needing to be a certain price, so as long as the demo is satisfying you can count on a sale from me.

Whatever reservations I may have had about Multiwinia I am VERY excited by what I've seen about Subversion. Tell the other directors that the fans want Subversion, so that's what you should be focusing on! Leave the meetings to someone else. Chronometer may be pretty cool as well, but I haven't seen enough to actually form an opinion one way or the other.

I hope this story ends well!
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Postby Ace Rimmer » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:18 pm

I'm guessing part III will be chock full of the encouraging positives (vision and goals) and have less past disappointments. At least, that's what I'm hoping.

Introversion as a company seems to be on the right track; evaluating it's success and failures and based on those, determining which path to follow to arrive at it's many goals (Chronometer, Subversion, future ideas, etc).

Clearly, IV hasn't given up and is making strides to move forward, in spite of any setbacks. The only thing I fear out of all this is that IV will move in the direction of a bigger, less community friendly version of itself in an attempt to sustain itself as a business. That is, on a scale of IV to EA, getting much closer (relatively speaking) to EA.
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Postby Taedal » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:52 pm

This is depressing talk from an MD of any company so firstly you should be a little concerned about morale! Not meaning to be harsh but wallowing won't help so you should look to other solutions (but i'm sure have though).

For my part - I feel your company should rally around subversion. Following your creative instincts and vision have led to all your past success. Don't ignore them - go for it, and I think you will end up with gold.

(ok, nice controls should be included).
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Postby tllotpfkamvpe » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:25 pm

I think that IV should increase the price of Defcon, especially on steam, they can still make loads of money from this baby. The way Defcon is designed, the graphics will never get old, and most of the titles usually go budget because they rely on graphics and when the graphics are old the game can't be sold anymore. Therefore, increase the price of defcon!! and bring us subversion asap. :)
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Postby Xocrates » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:33 pm

tllotpfkamvpe wrote:I think that IV should increase the price of Defcon, especially on steam, they can still make loads of money from this baby. The way Defcon is designed, the graphics will never get old, and most of the titles usually go budget because they rely on graphics and when the graphics are old the game can't be sold anymore. Therefore, increase the price of defcon!!

Are you Serious? Or just High?
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Postby tllotpfkamvpe » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:54 pm

Xocrates wrote:
tllotpfkamvpe wrote:I think that IV should increase the price of Defcon, especially on steam, they can still make loads of money from this baby. The way Defcon is designed, the graphics will never get old, and most of the titles usually go budget because they rely on graphics and when the graphics are old the game can't be sold anymore. Therefore, increase the price of defcon!!

Are you Serious? Or just High?


Yes I'm Serious. Whats the point of selling a game for £4.50 when you can sell it for £20? Even worst is multiwinia retailing at £7.50ish. IV dont make cheapo budget games, they make good indie games. There is no point under selling a good product. No I'm not high.

If I see a game at less than £5 I would assume its not worth buying because it must be probably at least 7-10 years old with outdated graphics, the gameplay is not guaranted to be good, espcially if its not even a classic like Doom etc.
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Postby Ace Rimmer » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:55 pm

They'd have to market/promote it first. :wink:
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