I’ve mulled over whether to say anything at all, but if you can’t say what you think about the games industry when you own your own company, when can you?
I was part of a panel yesterday at Develop, the games conference for developers in Brighton UK. I was speaking about ‘microstudios’ with Robin Lacey(Beatnik), Sean Murray(Hello Games) and Mark Morris(Introversion), all of whom are good guys. As a one-man outfit, I’m the real baby studio there, but at 13 years of experience, also the grandfather, so I guess that makes me middle aged. Anyway… all was cool, and there was much joking and mutual silliness. Apparently I am the Barry Manilow of game development, and a mug to spend £75 on jeans. And the topic then came up of how indies can respond directly to gamers on stuff like messageboards. Basically I started making the point, and mark was also agreeing about how someone can email you as an indie dev, and you can reply personally back to that potential customer, and hopefully, that way you have converted that guy to buying the game.
At this point, there was this derisive snort from this guy in the front row, who said something to the effect of ‘one guy? who cares, that’s a waste of time’. He then started to lecture us on how that’s a silly way to do it. I’m 95% sure that all four of us on the panel thought ‘what the fuck?’ as well as ‘who is this guy’? compounded by Robin asking him if he worked in marketing.
Anyway… it turned out this guy was Mark Rein from Epic, although he seemed to assume everyone within earshot knew exactly who he was, and why he must obviously be right. I got the impression he was there to laugh at the little guys, or to just inform us how we are all wrong. Interestingly, it seemed there was someone from sports interactive (one time indies, as I recall) there, who seemed more on the indie wavelength than Mark. It would have been cool to chat with him.
So… I’ve given this a lot of thought, and weighed up the pros and cons of just putting this down to misinterpreting someone, and so on, and I have reached this conclusion.
Mark Rein is a jerk.
Now I suspect this is not groundbreaking news, although it is to me, because I’ve never met him or even seen him before. However, this experience seems to confirm my opinions on Epic and companies like them in general. Now Mark may well look down on humble indies like me. He may well think I’m doing it wrong. he may laugh when me and Mark discuss the pitiful money our companies make, and giggle at the fact that we reply to gamers on a one-on-one basis… But fuck him. I would rather earn minimum wage making indie strategy games for the PC, as my own boss, with an original game, satisfying a hardcore niche of friendly customers (the one-thousand-true-fans-philosophy), without a publisher telling me what to do, and without having to leave my house to go to work, without having to do ‘crunch time’ (because, dude… its like so macho to work until 3AM and never see your family)… Than I would work at epic for megabucks. The sheer overwhelming stench of testosterone would probably give me a headcahe, combined with the dizzy excitement of exactly what shade of grey our next game’s space-marine would wear as he kicked alien butt. (I feel bad working on Gratuitous Space Battles for almost 2 years, but it seems like that old ‘wisecracking space marine with big muscles and chisel-jaw’ idea has been stretched out longer than the hundred years war).
I have absolutely no doubt mark would just naturally assume me feeling like that is jealousy, which, as anyone who knows me personally would testify, is just fucking funny. I really don’t care about Epic, and their games, as they are way way too macho and ‘dude’ for my liking, and don’t have demos, so I just assume they haven’t changed since Unreal Tournament. I try not to comment on games I don’t like, as each to their own tastes etc. The only reason I’m moved to give a damn enough to state my opinion, is that I resent having some triple-a studio jerk come and tell someone whose run a microstudio for thirteen years that he is doing it all wrong. If Mark from introversion suggests I’m doing it wrong, thats cool, he does what I do, and has some serious experience, ditto anyone on that panel, or anyone with long indie experience. And I listen carefully, often over lunch.
But Triple-A studio bosses trying to lecture me on how to communicate better with gamers? Fuck off.
Cliff Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org)