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Just in under the wire

So I managed to get it all done. Being anti-social in a house full of 10-12 people and a dog, 3 of whom require LOTS of attention, is certainly not easy. But, somehow I managed to make it. So, here it is.


Episode 5 is all about milking and overusing characters and franchises. Its with me and Brian, and this one runs a tiny bit shorter than usual at 58:40. There may be one or 2 assorted quality issues, but I blame Brian for that one.

As always, the embed is included free of charge.

As always, feel free to leave comments. Next episode ETA is roughly 3 weeks, on June 30th. And that should be one worth listening to. See you all soon.



( 3 smashed — Enter A Code )
Jun. 12th, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
Milking the proverbal cash cow...
Dear Ben and Brian,

First of all, I would like to say great episode and that I thought the topic that you covered was very interesting and that I thought that this was a topic that needed to be covered. But after listening I had alot of questions that needed to be answered.

First what do you mean by "milking franchises". This in my opinion is a two faced argument. It could mean milking to the extent that the character is unusable anymore or because it is popular lets make more games about that character. Even though these two items sound the same they are very different. Milking to the extent that the character is unusable applies to games like Crash Bandicoot where the character is unusable. Naughty Dog (the company) would never use Crash in another game because of the fact that the game's character has a reputation of (past the first) bad games and way to many games that are the same. The second applies to games like Mario. The character has a lot of games in his life time. But the fact is that the initial story line that he follows is still great and untainted. This applies to games dating back to the NES (Super Mario 1,2,3 / Super Mario Land / 64 etc.) and that all of his side tracks don't taint the original series. A great current example is Mario Strikers and I think the Super Paper Mario series. The Strikers series even though not an official Nintendo game doesn't taint the official Nintendo Mario series. And because the off shots are not Official Nintendo brand games they can be ignored by gamers.

I think that I want to continue this response with games that haven't changed and I think that you could have talked about this topic alot more and I think that this topic should SERIOUSLY be covered in more detail. You talked about the burnout series and I play the series quite extensively and also you talked about the final fantasy, pokemon, and yearly sports game series.

Starting with all of these games, in general, is that there is the idea "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". This, I think, applies more directly to games like the final fantasy series, yearly sports franchises and, to pokemon (specifically, the handheld games). The games have been the same and the game system works very well. In the case of final fantasy, that specific RPG formula hasn’t changed and it is hard to change it. The problem is with changing it. There are many hardcore fans of the series (larger in percentage than the casual players) that like the system and don’t want it changed. So square (or other RPG companies) are not going to change it based on a few percentage of people that want a different experience. Ben you said in an earlier episode companies are only going to go so far for there fans. Also, making such a radical change is a Windows Vista like effect. Not to bash on windows or anything when you change something too radically, people are not going to use it to its full extent. When a games formula is too different people are not going to play it. Switching gears to pokemon, yes, I agree that the formula for the game has been the same since the launch of red and blue for the gameboy, but the problem is what are you going to change for later versions? The game is incredibly simple as Brian has described it, so that is why it is so hard to change it also, what Brian mentioned at about 18 minutes is that the game is hard to change with risks that could ruin the series. Thinking about it now it’s similar to Zelda. It’s in essence, it’s the same game over and over again, only the visuals change every time. With pokemon people were expecting a lot with the DS’s features, but what are you going to change? More levels, characters, people? Its hard and the base of customers that Nintendo is marketing this to (young kids), the simpler, the better, and they know that they can sell games to this, the largest majority of these people.
Jun. 12th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC)
Milking the proverbal cash cow... pt.2
Lastly I want to move on to the yearly franchise games (MLB, Madden, NHL, etc). Ben, I feel that you were way too critical in your response to these games. Coming from a programmers perspective and what you are developing this game on (about) a year game is very hard to build (especially when they need to program the game on multiple platforms). There is a thing when you are programming something called a “code freeze”. That is when you say, “OK when this needs to launch all of X, Y, and Z need to be in the game and nothing else, the customer can not add anything into the game after we sign the contract” (the customer being the company’s features they want in the game). So now you want an entire overhaul of a system that works well every year to the hardcore fans? Ben, I feel that this is very unreasonable, especially, because every year are they going to change the entire game? No, they are going to use the same code base that they used for the past games, and upgrade it and make it better and faster, probably upgrade the graphics, and add a mode or two. Also, they need to use the same code base for all of the systems they are releasing the game on and also the game needs to be consistent between all systems. Also, for most systems (PS2, Wii, GC), there is no update system, so the game needs to be right the first time. That’s probably why they need to play it safe every time they release another yearly release.

Quickly talking about Burnout and alike, the game is fine the way it is. The online system works great and game is feature rich. Also it is, a heart, a racing game. Like Forsa and Gran Turismo, how are you going to change it? It works fine the way it is.

Wrapping this up I have a couple of questions I want to address.

You seem to be into the RPG thing more then Ben does. The games seem to stand on there own, why would you not like a series of continuing games?

What can be added to the RPG games to make them better and attract a wide audience not the hardcore?

If you had to make a yearly franchise game what would you change? Before answering, think that you need to have the game on multiple platforms and you need to develop and test the game before launch and there is no update system like games for Personal Computers.


The A -> B equation, in my opinion, works well for the “casual” gamer because it is easy and it’s been done before. Logically, the middle is different, but the games are still entertaining. What can be changed? The companies can’t lock out there games to one audience, they need to expand. What would be added to make the A -> B equation better?

RPG’s recently don’t have A -> B game where you can reach an end. Do you think that this is a good thing? It does almost trap the players into the games and they make them player continuous play them.

Milking, in a sense, expands your games characters to other types of game (Mario, for example). But as you both mentioned, when you go to far the character can die because you have milked all of the money out of it. Can you address why games like Pokemon, Zelda, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat have not died? There are tons of games with the IP’s and they still run strong.

Thanks for taking time to read this and I look forward to more from you guys,
Eric N. (Episode 2 and the VT episode)
Jun. 14th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
Thoughts of Episode 5
Hey, guys. Great episode, here, as I finally get a chance to listen to this.

Few points I like to point out. First, Criterion and Burnout.

Criterion, before EA, had Actvision, and Criterion still did (and does) what EA does. They don't take a chance, there was very little difference between 1 and 2, 2 and 3, and so on. There were changes, yes, but the styles stay the same throughout. EA and Actvision, really, were there for graphic engines.

There are some cash cows, some you mentioned (Pokemon, Madden) and some you didn't (Mario Party, Halo pending on who you talk to). The main problem is maybe not the willingness to innovate and try a new idea, but more they can't think of a new idea. There is a lack of innovation.

Going way back to New Super Mario Bros. and why that system worked is this: Mario didn't have a 2D classic platforming adventure for over 15 YEARS. It was so old it was new. The 3D graphics and new bosses helped make it a best seller.

One final point here, then I'll go. Madden hasn't changed much over the years, yes. It's been around since 1990 (Thank you, Final Jeopardy), but I think it will in the coming years. First off, Wii controls make Madden a whole new experience, and something that makes the 2007 version worth having. Second, now that online downloading is becoming more popular, I think it's a matter of time before these gamers realize they can get a patch and then not have to buy the next game. This is profitable from both ends. Gamers spend less for the patches and still get the value of a new game, and EA gets to spend more time making new features, so when the next Madden, NHL, FIFA, whatever comes out, it'll be a whole new experience, and maybe attract new gamers.

Ok, that's my bit. Great episode again.

Till next time!
~Red Mage (Nick)
( 3 smashed — Enter A Code )


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