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Game Engine Marketing Models Compared 243

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-the-pacman-engine dept.
death00 writes: "GameDev has an interesting story about the success of Garage Games Torque engine (the engine behind Tribes 2). I especially find it interesting to see the number of developers working on high-quality games based on the Torque engine. The basic premise is that Garage Games gives a full license of the Torque engine to a team for a project for $100 USD per developer. The only caveat is that you must publish any finished works through Garage Games. Perhaps id software might consider doing this with the Quake III engine once the Doom III engine comes out. From my understanding, the Quake III engine currently licenses for significantly ($250,000 USD) more than that. Instead of waiting 2 more years and GPL'ing the full source, why not license it for cheap after Doom III comes out, then GPL later?"
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Game Engine Marketing Models Compared

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  • Simple... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moridineas (213502) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:19AM (#4069826) Journal

    How is this a good question? It's simple.

    why not license it for cheap after Doom III comes out, then GPL later?

    Easy, they want to make money from it! If they can charge $250,000 and sell copies of it, there's clearly demand for that product and as a result id gets money (again, this is their goal). It's not like id gets anything from other companies licensing their software OTHER than money.

  • Not that much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PissingInTheWind (573929) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:20AM (#4069827)
    For top-notch 3D technology like the Q3 engine, it seems to me that 250 000$ isn't that much. Just try to imagine how much would cost a few programmers to develop a similar engine... if you can find comptent enough programmers.

    Of course, the price tag puts it out of hobyist's reach, but we all know that, eventually, we'll be allowed to look at the source for free.

    Go Id!

  • by zaqattack911 (532040) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:22AM (#4069843) Journal
    If they can make money off of Quake3, why on earth would they GPL it?

    ID software is in business to make money.

    Unless of course by "GPL Later" you mean 15 years from now when quake3 will seem like pacman compared to other games.

    --me

  • Re:GPL now (Score:2, Insightful)

    by prefect42 (141309) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:24AM (#4069859)
    But they're in the business of making money, not doing good for the people. If they can make more money out of it by not GPLing it, then they should keep it.

    Also, how long did it take to develop the Quake III engine? How many people? They're free to recoup their costs as they like.

    jh
  • Not id's business (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:24AM (#4069860)
    id is in the business of making games, not publishing them. Activision publishes them. It takes a whole different expertise to get games on the shelf and sell them than it does to come up with new technology. id's business, which it excels at, is the technology, and if they wanted to be in the publishing business I'm sure they already would be.

    So don't expect to get a commercial Q3 source code license for $100 any time soon.
  • Re:Simple... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moridineas (213502) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:26AM (#4069871) Journal
    You know the old saying a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush? In this case, 250k in the bank is better than any amount in the air. There's no guaranteed a finished product will emerge. Not to mention that for $100 John A H4x0r could get the source and gnutella it (hey information wants to be free right, I bet he'd even have supporters on slashdot for "opening" the doom source code), and then id's lost their state of the art 3d technology advantage.
  • Success? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:32AM (#4069917)
    I don't see how you can call this a success. The article says that there's hundreds of game projects based on their engine. id Software makes more money selling just ONE Quake3 license.

    Maybe they'll make more once some of these games ship, but I doubt it, considering how small of a percentage of games are profitable.
  • Makes Sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by siskbc (598067) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:33AM (#4069922) Homepage
    Actually, the suggestion makes sense.

    1. THe value of the Quake III engine will drop dramatically when the Doom III engine comes out.
    2. id would get an easy way to increase their market share as a publisher. What better way than to tempt gamers with a free (or nearly free) engine?
    3. Would keep the company who made Tribes from doing the above. Which would you rather use - QIII or tribes engine? Which sounds more prestigous on the promo?
    4. Would be a great talent "minor-league" - virtually give the engine to anyone and it will encourage new up-and-coming developer teams, who will work with id.

    All in all, there would be a number of advantages for id. QIII won't be worth as much in a year or so, why not do it?

    Admittedly, I doubt they will. Companies have a kneejerk reaction to giving anything away, especially something they're selling for $250,000 now.
  • by levik (52444) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:37AM (#4069953) Homepage
    I'm sure Garage Games would be more than happy to lisence its engine to peple for $250,000. The only problem is, they know full well that for that much money, a company can go out and get themselved the Q3 engine, and nobody would look at their offering, because "everyone knows Quake3 is the best".

    So the chose this alternate model. The $100/developer model will probably not work too well for iD, who offer the services of John Carmack for a day to all lisencees, as well as a lot of email support, etc. Would it be worth it for JC to make a trip to teach 4 developers to use the engine, get $400 in return, and then have the game cancelled in developement?

    Besides, iD doesn't really do publishing. They publish through GT Interactive as far as I recall, so this revenue stream is not viable at all.

  • Re:Simple... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cutriss (262920) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:37AM (#4069954) Homepage
    However, anyone looking to make money on it had best look out. id might lose a few bucks here and there on some small indie developers, but you can bet that id's lawyers will be watching anything that breaks $10K in sales and do some checks to verify if it's using the engine. If they find out that it is, you can bet that the suits will fly.

    Bear in mind - You're not paying $250K for a license to use the software. You're paying $250K for a license to redistribute works based on the software. If someone tried to jump the gun, id might find the beans spilled with their new graphics engine, but you can bet that legally, they'll have every right to stop people from publishing anything moneymaking based on it without prior consent (Read: payment)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:38AM (#4069959)
    GPLing engine doesn't mean that you can't continue selling it. When you are using GPLed engine to create game, the result must be also under GPL. How many companies making shelf-games are willing to do this? They would rather buy (and still can buy) license without GPL attached.
  • Re:GPL now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joib (70841) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:40AM (#4069984)
    Um, you know, most businesses bigger than Bobs Lawnmower Repair Shop will use that $1000000 quicker than you can say 'cash flow problems'.
  • Support (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:41AM (#4069988)

    I think the price differential buys you one very important thing: support.

    Do you think Garage Games is going to help every $100 USD developer out there, much less address any bugs/changes initiated by that developer?

    I know developers who licensed the Unreal and Quake engines got direct support from the developers, as well as successive version with bug changes and feature additions.
  • Re:Not that much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zathrus (232140) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:46AM (#4070033) Homepage
    But, just to implement all the Q3 tech, including BSP+PVS, Q3 Shaders and a loader for the Model files and Map files would take two good 3D engine programmers about a week

    Including the extensible modules? And the network code? And the sound code? And everything else?

    And have it be virtually bug free?

    Yes, as you said, it's old now. But you also said that it's mature, and that's one thing that can't be replicated in a week. Or a month. Probably not even a year.

    Hell, you want to talk about an old codebase? Look at Half-Life. It's still based on Q2, and it's still one of the most popular online games.

    Dropping $250k for a stable core is nothing if you're serious about things. Sure, you'll have to extend it to bring it up to current standards, but RtCW did just that and did quite well in the market. So has SoF and SoF2, amongst others.

    Yes, the Q3 core is old, and shows it. But I think you drastically underestimate how long it would take to redevelop it from scratch. There's quite a number of open source (under various licenses) game cores out there, and they've taken considerably longer than a month to make and aren't approaching Q3's capabilities yet. Yes, I suppose you could argue that they're not made by "good 3D engine programmers", but that doesn't help the situation for a fledgling company now does it?
  • by jvmatthe (116058) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:56AM (#4070099) Homepage
    Often the free software development model is criticized for simply rebuilding what has been done already. And I feel that the release of the Quake engines and DooM engines have exemplified this very inadequacy.

    I had hoped that we would see some really brilliant things come out of the GPL releases of these codebases, and, in reality some very good, cleaned-up clients have been developed. I certainly enjoy the mouselook, higher resolutions, and enhanced levels that have been developed from the DooM engine (see DooMWorld [doomworld.com] to see the kind of stuff that's out there). The improved QuakeWorld client [quakeforge.com] I'm aware of is pretty nice. And Q^2 [icculus.org] has a good Quake 2 client.

    But these are just the obvious extensions of what was already done. The community now has (for the most part) all the source and tools that went into making Half-Life, the most successful game to come out of all of these codebases. Yet, to my knowledge, no project has arisen from the community to mold the next such game. How about another story-driven game that people would compare to Deus Ex? Or an all-out action game in the same vein as Soldier of Fortune? Or how about a freaking free software teamplay game that we compare to Counterstrike so that Linux users can play a team-oriented online FPS using free software only and not rely on WINE or WINEX? Or meld two free software projects and connect a Z-machine interpreter with the Quake engine and make a text-command driven story with a 3D view of the action?

    These are things that would demonstrate just how momentous and visionary the release of the Quake source under the GPL was. Yet, all the community has managed to come up with is Quake++.

    People slam my posts for being negative lately. That I'm ripping on people that have done good work. That's fine, I've got the skin for it. (Try USENET...) I admit that some really find refactoring and coding has gone into redoing the Linux Quake clients. But really, I hear plenty of bitching about how Linux (and other free OS) don't have good games and don't get the attention of the big game companies. Yet, when empowered to do new and exciting things and to make your own games, the group is content to simply recompile Quake for the Zaurus and call it a day. That's good work, for sure, but it's not the kind of work that's going to move free software forward and make it the kind of interesting world that non-free software people take a real interest in.

    Again, I'm not making a judgment about the quality of the work that has been done. It's great. But now that you have the best raw materials from John Carmack, can we see real creativity out of the free software gaming world? (FWIW, I think CrystalSpace [sf.net] has done a good job of attracting some interesting new development.)
  • by Junks Jerzey (54586) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:57AM (#4070113)
    A typical A-class game costs 3 to 10 million dollars to develop. I'd say that 3 million is too low a figure in today's market, though it was typical several years ago. Let's say 4 million is a base figure. $250,000 is 6% of the total budget. That's it. Six percent.

    I'm not saying that the Quake III engine is state of the art, or anywhere near the only choice out there (frankly, it's the only engine that most gamers know about), but in the overall scheme of things, $250,000 isn't that much.

    The engine, of course, is only maybe 20% of the work required to make a game. Fanboy-types refuse to believe this, but it's true. Art creation is much more time consuming, for example. And there's lots and lots of coding that has nothing to do with the core engine. I'd estimate that graphics-type code is maybe 10-15% of a typical game. For complex games that are less gameplay-shy than Quake, this could easily be under 5%. The reaction to that is usually "But what else is there besides the graphics?" which is greatly amusing to those of us developing games for a living.
  • by Zathrus (232140) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:01AM (#4070135) Homepage
    If they can make money off of Quake3, why on earth would they GPL it?

    They won't. id is not stupid.

    But, based off past procedures, you can expect the Q3 source to be GPL'd within 1-2 years of the Doom3 release. They did it with Wolfenstein, they did it with Doom (sans sound code), and they did it with both Q1 and Q2.

    But, like I said, they're not stupid. It's released well after its licensing value is near zero and under GPL. Want to make a commercial game using the old Q2 engine? Sure -- pay id Software $10k (a heavily reduced price) and you can have the exact same code as what's under GPL -- except that you're not bound by the GPL.

    It's one of the few ways to make the GPL work for companies to make money. Of course, even then, you'll get rabid idiots decrying the fact that it's not GPL from the start, and that you can actually get a non-GPL license in exchange for cash.

    Fortunately most people are sane and simply thank id Software for contributing to the public knowledge base in such a manner.
  • Re:Simple... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by metlin (258108) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:08AM (#4070196) Journal
    Good point.

    Another thing is that you're also paying for the expertise, something that id has gathered over the years.

    A good 3d game engine which can make use of the latest technology, one that makes hardware designers consider your game as a test subject is something that does not happen everyday.

    The primary reason id is where it is because of that expertise, which is what keeps them coming up with better technology & products everytime.

    Although an el33t Jack h4x0r kid might be able to get the code and do something worthwhile, just how long would it last?

    Forget the legal ramifications, there is a high probability that even before somebody does something worthwhile with it, id would have come up with something much better, guess which would sell better?

    Besides, it's not just the 3d engines that count, gameplay does count too. id has a double shot advantage in that area, I feel.
  • Re:Not that much (Score:3, Insightful)

    by topham (32406) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:09AM (#4070206) Homepage
    And doesn't mean the results can actually be used in a GAME ENGINE. not a fucking viewer.

  • by Frobozz0 (247160) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:50AM (#4070488)

    This is interesting, because it brings to light the differences in business models. I see the guys at ID software with a much better plan. They don't have to sell the product. The problem with Garage Games method is that there is no guarantee of income, and they have to invest their own income to publish the game. They only make money if the game is a commercial success. The better it does, the more money they make. ID, on the other hand, has a guaranteed flat income.

    This really comes down to marketing leverage. Garage Games is not as large, or well know. In order to increase their credibility and the proliferation of their technology they have to take risks. The benefits can be very lucrative-- but are in no way guaranteed. I think you'll see Garage Games adopt a different model when they become as sucessfull as ID, because most business men you talk to will take guaranteed income as the cash cow any day. But good luck to their in either case-- I love Tribes.

  • Re:Real World (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RickHunter (103108) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @12:02PM (#4070563)

    Well, your figure there puts development of the game engine alone at, what, six months? Now, look at it from the point of view of a company making a game. That's six months where they can't use screenshots to feed a hype machine. That's another six months tacked onto their release date. Another six months for their chosen technology to become obsolete, another six months for someone else to beat them to market.

    Don't you think trimming those months off the start of the development cycle is worth $250,000? They apparently do. And that's not even considering the publicity from being able to say "we use the Quake 3 engine!"

  • release it then (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Twister002 (537605) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @12:13PM (#4070643) Homepage
    If your game engine that you threw together in a weekend, that I'm sure has support for all video cards, works so great. Put it up for download so we can look at it.

    I'm sure it's 100% bug free of course.

    Why not spend ANOTHER weekend and work on the network engine, physics engine, or model support? Whip out an AI over lunch.

  • Support! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Midnight Ryder (116189) <midryder@nOSpam.midnightryder.com> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @01:03PM (#4070945) Homepage
    Actually, as a Torque licensee, the support has been pretty good. But because of the way the GG team has set things up, they don't have to answer all the questions - instead, you post to the forums online, and sometimes the community addresses the issue, sometimes the GG team does. All depends on who's fastest on the draw it seems. (I have, however, seen some newbie questions go unanswered - mainly because if they would have bothered using the 'search' function, they would have found the answer right off. RTFM & RTFW! Jeez people!)

    I've been happy as hell with it all - it's worked great, I've definitely gotten more than $100 in value out of it, and both the community support and GG's support has been great.
  • by mactari (220786) <[rufwork] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @03:36PM (#4071955) Homepage
    You don't need GPL to get creative with gaming by a long shot, and the good "freeware" game writers had already moved on to the latest and greatest by the time Q1 & 2 were released as GPL.

    What made Quake so great was the ease with which it could be customized. Take Team Fortress for instance. A better multiplayer fps has yet to be released. Team Fortress Classic for Half-Life and even Return to Castle Wolfenstein are commercial releases that do very little innovation on a theme developed by people that didn't get paid a cent.

    The point being that Quake 1-3 were so open to gameplay modification that the GPL doesn't entice people who are donating free time to making games any more than the games did on initial release. Heck, Quake 3 even releases the same tools id created to make the games to end users. Why do I need to look at the code to combine z-Machine interpreters when Quake 3 already has the hooks for my customizations?

    The same thing's going to happen with Doom 3, I'd imagine. Quite simply, all the "opening/freeing" of the Quake code did was make it possible for hardcore programmers to bring it to other platforms. The gameplay talent already have all the tools they needed to move to the next level and more recent games. That's part of the beauty of the way id programs.

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