Minor dramatics and other Yak-oriented activities

By: Xander

On: November 24th, 2007

<img src=“http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2136/2059946860_e355def24c_o.png” width=“289” height=“247” alt=“Jeff and his Sheep. One of them. Probably the happiest one” hspace=“5” vspace=“5” align= “right”/>

A little more drama unfolded over this week, with Jeff Minter’s disheartened rant on the lack of sales for Space Giraffe followed up by the announcement that he will no longer be keeping up his development blog, which will henceforth be solely an area for discussions of Sheep, Plushies and other workless topics.

Earlier in the week, Jeff posted up on his blog his feelings on the subject of Space Giraffe selling only 1/10th of the amount that the re-re-re-re-re-re-re-rerelease of Frogger achieved on the Xbox Live Arcade. To quote The Yak on the subject, his reaction to the news was this;

OK, we get the message. All you want on that channel is remakes of old, shite arcade games and crap you vaguely remember playing on your Amiga.

I know a few TIGers would argue against the 1989 TMNT Arcade game being considered shite (especially if you happen to own a vintage cabinet), but it does pose some worries about the future of XBLA as a platform for indie developers. However, Space Giraffe wasn’t just controversial within the console crowd, as there were greatly divided opinions across the indie community as well as the mainstream press.

So perhaps the usefulness to the indie community remains to be seen, but at least in this case it’s left Jeff Minter with some serious doubts, even as Grid Runner ++ continues development (now silently) on the 360. Here’s hoping for at least some better luck in the future, as successes regardless, I’d just hate to see the indie spirit crushed by a 26 year old highway crossing frog.

Update: This week’s XBLA releases are Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe. “The ironing is delicious…”

( Source: Eurogamer, because they still have the greatest review ever of Earth Defence Force 2017 )

  • underwhelmed

    Or maybe… just maybe.. indie devs need to drop this “indier than thou” and “my shit is so awesome they all think it sucks because they are not on the same level as me” attitude?

    Wait what was I thinking? Of course arrogance and self-importance are sexy.

    I mean, I think I pull it off pretty well. I think I’m better than everyone here. :)

  • John Romero

    That’s a good point! Mainstream game developers are NEVER arrogant and self-important.

    But we ARE sexy. *wink*

  • raigan

    about the sales figures, one thing that needs pointing out is that there is a huge overhead to making XBLA games.

    if you’re making a game for PC, your overhead is basically server hosting for a year.. $1k max? on XBLA, it costs $20k for testing (there is a single company who is “recommended by microsoft” to do this, and it’s essentially required since failing cert costs a lot), $4-8k for localization (even for very simple games with almost no text), and $16k for a devkit.

    if you’re lucky you’ll get a loaner devkit, however that’s still a lot of money being sunk into development.. maybe $30k is nothing for larger companies, but how many people have that kind of money just sitting around?!

    finally, as much as i complain about how ugly SG is, it is 9764264x better than 90% of the games on XBLA, since it doesn’t look or play like it’s made with cheap 3D clip-art.

  • http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber Oddbob

    The kind of people who have their visualiser embedded in every 360?


  • Moose

    I think more the point is that he tried to answer the call from goodness-knows-how-many people for different and original games, and then found that those same people failed to make it practical to make those games by actually buying it.

    He didn’t expect it to be mass market. But if you’re saying that being mass market is the only way a programmer could expect their game to make enough money to make it worth producing, then you’re burying the possibility of originality per se.

    It reminds me of the occasion when a town was closing down a small independant cinema, and the mayor announced that they would save the cinema provided all the people protesting actually went to see a film there in the following week..

  • Wonderpus

    which begs the question as to why is he making games ?
    1.because he enjoys it
    2.he wants to play what he makes
    3.he wants to make money
    4.he wants to be this niche corner of the market the cool kids will adore but fuck everyone else

    seems to me he wanted all of these , which as we all know is damn hard unless for point 3. you charge $100 per copy , you know because its SO indie

    and don’t get me wrong i WANTED to adore SG i really did , but you know what i’ve done my fare share of paying for XBLA and PSN games to support Indie devs and all of them are more enjoyable than SG

    I’m not buying SG because i want to be cool , i’m not buying it because i feel sorry for Minter , i’m not buying it because i didn’t enjoy it

    now all the cool kids hate on me if you must, because i’m not indie enough


  • Vydas

    Original does not equal good.

  • Cas

    I do love Jeff Minter and all his games but he seems to be going through that Big Dose Of Reality Thing that us indies get when we release our pride and joys. I’ll be amazed if we sell 500 copies of our next game in a year. Shame Jeff hasn’t discovered just how hard it is to sell games these days. You can’t get away with all that inaccessible stuff any more. Wonder if he’ll learn the trick?

  • Jonathan Blow

    The idea that it’s “hard to sell games these days” is bogus. It is easier than at any time in history. That doesn’t mean you’ll sell a lot of copies automatically, though; you still have to work for it and do the right things.

  • wormguy

    Looking at my previous post, it does seem a bit calloused. But I am somewhat disillusioned with the state of modern games.

    I was looking through the list of major game releases in the last few weeks –

    Unreal Tournament 3, Orange Box, Crysis, Assassin’s Creed, Super Mario Galaxy, Blacksite: Area 51, Tabula Rasa, Kane and Lynch, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Mass Effect…

    I know I must have forgotten a few, but that’s a pretty long list. And all but TWO of those games have shooter elements in them. And while some of those games are brilliant, and I’m not discrediting them, they are shooters.

    What does that tell you about the kind of games people are buying? I like shooters just as much as the next guy, but isn’t this a little ridiculous?

    Of course, why bother creating original gameplay types when shooters are fun and print money?

  • wormguy

    Correction. I’m not disillusioned. Games are still fun for me. It’s just that a disproportionate amount of AAA titles are shooters, and I wouldn’t mind some variety.

  • gnaw

    I think the clear solution to this dilemma is that Jeff needs to do a Frogger remake. I personally hate the game, but at least he’d have the wider audience to sell to, and I’m sure he could turn it into a half-way decent game. If nothing else, there’d be awesome trippinesses and some beautiful pixel-explosion roadkills.

  • Cas

    Jonathan Blow, it is not bogus. It is hard to sell games these days. There was a golden era in the late 90s when selling any old shite on the internet could make you a mint because there was fuck all competition. Now the competition is extremely fierce.

  • lesslucid

    Cas, the market is also bigger.

    I think Minter is entitled to be unhappy but gamers are also entitled not to buy his game, and to enjoy themselves playing Frogger. I wish there was more of a market for interesting and unusual games because I’ve been around for long enough to be bored with most of the stuff that keeps getting re-done… but in the end, people like what they like. You can be pissed off about or you can be calm, and it won’t make a damn bit of difference.

  • Anonymous

    This is sort of sad. I’m sure that plenty of people would blow $5 to grab Space Giraffe on their PCs even with the strong warnings about its inaccessability. I know I would, and I’m not a devotee of shooters. The indie community should probably take this as a possible warning sign about the viability of releasing games for XBLA. Sure, Frogger outselling Space Giraffe doesn’t mean anything on its own, but if the future shows indie games being repeatedly crushed by remakes/emulations of 80s games (seriously, you can get an emulation of Frogger pretty much anywhere, people. I hope it doesn’t cost very much), maybe greener pastures will be in order.

  • Cas

    The market’s for Jeff’s games is no bigger than it was 20 years ago. All the increases in size are down to new kinds of people playing games that never liked his kinds of games before.

    I think he’s just going to have to accept the fact he has to change his game to make it sell more. He’s an indie right? Why can’t he do that? All our games are tweaked and tuned for about 7 or 8 versions before we finally leave them alone. Or is it the pride thing?

  • http://www.awesomenessinabox.com oranda

    Anonymous said 2 days later:
    “This is sort of sad. I’m sure that plenty of people would blow $5 to grab Space Giraffe on their PCs even with the strong warnings about its inaccessability.”

    PC gamers love them their options menu. All it takes is a “crazy neon trip inducing effects OFF!” option, and your accessibility goes through the roof. I’d love to check Space Giraffe out, but I a) don’t own an XBox360, b) get motion sick fairly easily and c)don’t really enjoy having to mentally work out just to make sense of which pixels belong to which objects on my screen. I suspect that a lot of people are in the same boat, which is why I think that just toning down the trippy visual factor and maybe making the actual gameplay elements stand out from the effects a bit more would seriously increase the game’s appeal. A PC release wouldn’t hurt either :D.

    It’s okay to think “I really like the visuals in the game I made, I hope others do too”, because they are also an important element of the package that you put a lot of work into. But if it’s getting in the way of the game play, you gotta swallow your pride and change them, or at least provide the option to toggle them on and off. Otherwise, your visuals make the game less fun, and people do not want to play games that are not enjoyable, and then your sales will be lower than you would like.

  • Cas

    I’d buy the PC version without a doubt. I’m just not buying an XBox to play what looks like a PC game, to me.

  • http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber Oddbob

    “All it takes is a “crazy neon trip inducing effects OFF!” option, and your accessibility goes through the roof.”

    It does on one hand, but on the other completely breaks later levels in the game where you have the feedback enemies.

    Space Giraffe for better or for worse is tied to its visuals, turn them off and it just becomes *any* game.

  • Dudley

    Someone on SA put it best.

    “Jeff wrote Free Jazz but expected the sales of Britney. It’s just not going to happen, even if the Free Jazz is good”.

  • Shi

    things don’t have to be good to sell. it’s all about marketing.