From the Mailman

    After 14 didactic columns and 2 interviews, I’ve netted my fair share of reader feedback, and read every piece of it. Being a fairly specialized column topic, there wasn’t as much feedback as, say, Garwulf’s Corner received, but I feel it’s about time to share the email I have received, so everyone can see some of the things people call me. The names have not been changed; screw the innocent.

    This first email came in after my second installment, from Bobby, who has actually been in the business of computer game retail for over 10 years now:

    “So what makes it all worth it? The return on investment. Diablo 2, a game we all know and love, shipped 2 million copies to stores in the first print run, and another 1 million shortly thereafter. If each copy sold to the stores for an average of $30, that’s $90 million returned on what was probably a $5 million investment. Raise your hand if it’s suddenly become clear how they can run battle.net for free…”

    Blizzard uses a distribution center to ship its games, they don’t ship directly from their business except the few games it ships from its online store. Even then they dont have their on delivery service. This said they would have sold the copies of the game to the distribution center. The distributor would not have bought the games for $30USD apiece. That would mean they (the distributor) had to sell the games to stores for $48USD apiece to make money, and the stores would then have to sell the games for $77USD to turn a profit. These numbers are based upon the average return that a business like Blizaard aims for which is 54%, while the Distributors and retails look for 50-60% return.

    Its more likely that Blizzard sold their game to a distributor for $20USD so the Distributor would make its points and the stores would make their points.

    Nothing really big to say in response to this, except it’s good to have your facts straight, even when hypothesizing. Another email, from Mike, provided a couple links for those who are interested in the early history of computer games and programming languages:
    [*]An article on byte.com.
    [*]The story of Pong.

    The next email is from Richaro, on a general topic:

    How do you feel (and most people in the industry feel) about the games that come with their own tools (I.E. Neverwinter Nights and Unreal 2000?) that allow people to design games using their own technology.

    Is this good or bad? Do people in the industry look at what these people produce using these tools and look for talent?

    This email came in after about the third or fourth installment of BtV, and ended up being (sort of) covered recently in columns twelve and fifteen. The basic idea is that game developers let their player-base use their game to create other new games, for free. This is really a way to keep players hooked, and I think it’s a very very good thing.

    New games and mods are the ultimate player-created content. My personal favourite is Natural Selection, for Half-Life, which changes the two sides in to Alien and Human. The Humans have a single commander who functions much like the player in Starcraft, and the Aliens get to evolve in to different breeds, with different abilities. The first time I saw this, I could not believe it was a Half-Life mod.

    The main benefit, of course, is that as more of these mods come out, people continue playing your game. Even if it’s not what you originally had in mind, it’s still based on your engine, and your released game, and it means your title remains current for as long as people keep playing mods for it.

    I can’t say for certain that all game companies look for talent in modders, but I’m fairly sure everyone keeps an eye on it, if for no other reason than to see who’s doing what with their game, and their tools. If anyone can think of modders who’ve been hired for their efforts, let me know in email, and I’ll make a fun column out of it.

    This next email, from Mistress Kendra, summarizes a reasonable amount of my email, very eloquently:

    I want to first thank you for the time you spent writing your column, it is always nice to get a unique perspective on topics, especially on ones with so few people willing and/or able to give an informed prespective. I suppose the articles intrigue me even more because its been somewhat of a personal dream of mine to at the very least help make a game, if not head the design of a game, for a few years now.

    It’s absolutely amazing how many people who want to be game designers visit diabloii.net, and read my column. I’ve even had lengthy emails discussions with some people about the design process, and helping smooth out their design documents. Overall, feedback on the column has been good, and some very well informed people have sent me email. I cannot complain.

    Our next vict… I mean email is from Mark Wahlberg (not that Mark Wahlberg):

    Will you ever talk to the public about game testing (aka the ***** job of the industry)? I know that it’s not a glamorous job like a lot of people seem to think, but rather a grueling task that becomes very tedious. Most people, however, do not.

    Yes, I will indeed cover testing, as it should be the most important part of the design process, but we’re still several columns from it. First I’m going to finish up with the design, then I’ll talk about coding, then testing, then …I don’t know, something else. Stay tuned!

    The next one comes from Mr. Ent:

    I don’t know if you’ve ever played Fallout 2, but if you haven’t, you are missing out big-time. The producer of Fallout 2 is named Tim Cain, and he owes me about 700 hours or more of my life. I was wondering if you would interview him. Not necessarily for me, but for the entire rpg community. The Fallout series was one of the most popular RPG series ever, and the best in my opinion.

    I would love to interview Tim Cain, but can’t find a way to get in touch with him. If anyone knows of one, please let me know, and I’ll share him with all of you. Except for you. …You know who you are…

    And the last email this visit to the mailbag comes from Mustafa Bensini VIII:

    I downloaded DROD and it’s awesome. Once again shows how gameplay triumphs over eyecandy. A rare quality in games recently…

    Amen, brother… I feel like Hulk Hogan all of a sudden. It’s like an epidemic, recently. Too many people think that making a game look pretty will draw people to it. Who here has noticed that I’m not even touching on graphics yet? The most important thing for a game is playability, possibly even above testing. If people can’t play the game, they’re not going to care how nice it looks.

    On a related note, Drod.net is back on the air, after dealing with their web-hosting problems. All ye who wanted to try the game after I interviewed Erik in column 13 may once again do so.

    Disclaimer: Behind the Veil was written by Chris Marks and hosted by Diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

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