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Author Topic: A Round Table: Build A Flight Game With In The $2 Million / 2 Year Development Limits
Bones Frugalman
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posted 05-15-2000 11:47 AM       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
From: Flight Operations
To: Flight Gaming Community
cc: Flight Game Developers

Topic: What "Stuff" Would You Like To See In A New Sim? $2 Million 2 Year Development
Limit


It seems flight game players are confused about the world of flight game/sim development.
So to make it easy I have imposed the limits to the question (Kinda Like doing a Definite
Integral for all you math majors out there)

There is no breaking from the rule with stuff like I would wait 5 years if they would do it
this way or I would pay more money.
Staying with in the lines of the business model is very important.

So I ask: You the player, to become the developer sitting in a round table meeting trying to
figure out what type of product to make.

The Given:

This will be a jet combat sim with the ability to be played over the internet on a big server
for free. (Like NovaWorld).

The Game will have mass market appeal to attract a wider install base. But this will be
controlled by user options.
There will be and advance level mode.

The Goal of the project is accessible simulated realism.


Target units sold is 85,000 units after 6 months for $39.99.
(Just To Break even after the 1st six months)


The Goal is to have made a high % profit after the full year based on the first 6 months
forecast of 85k units [email protected] 39.99
Add-ons to the install base will be sales dependent, 6.8 million world wide after 1 full
release year.


So we are looking for small scale Quake like acceptance for the product. In terms of strong
sales and install base.


So do not waste time on stuff like what type of jet. Or What type of graphics and sound.
They will be as good as they can be with in the limits.

It is your job to come up with the feature sets only. You must remember that you can't
exceed the budget.
Also there will only be an extra $150,000 and 6 weeks available for post release work on
patches and platform related stuff.
So you can't ask for the world, unless the world can fit inside the limits.


Good luck... I look forward to seeing some creative responses.

Welcome to the Flight Operations Round Table.
-Bones Frugalman


A Round Table: Build A Flight Game With In The $2 Million / 2 Year Development Limits.

Errors Exist.
[email protected]


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Judge
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posted 05-15-2000 01:39 PM     Profile for Judge     Send New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
I think you're going to have to define the parameters a bit more stringently. For instance, what does the $2M budget cover? Salaries, office space, equipment, marketing, distribution?

Assuming a 10-person team, with an average salary of $50K pa (I have no idea if this is a realistic figure in the gaming industry, but let's use it for a first estimate), salaries alone over the 2-year period will total $1M. Add benefits and packages onto that and you're probably looking at $1.3M - $1.4M now.

Office space and marketing/distribution are probably also going to eat up large chunks of the budget.

Two years is not a long time when developing a product from scratch, so it's almost a given that the team is going to need a variety of third-party software tools such as 3D modelers, sound and image editors etc. These can be quite expensive also.

Network code, graphics and physics engines and the like? May be easier to licence existing engines if possible. It's almost always better to license existing technology than to build your own. Researching these areas would require significant lead-in time to ensure that the products selected, if any, meet the needs of the project. Licensing costs could conceivably also become quite large.



Posts: 440 | From: Vancouver, BC, Canada | Registered: Dec 1999  |  IP: Logged
Bones' Round Table
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posted 05-16-2000 11:13 AM       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
The $2Mill is for the sim development sorry if I did not make that clear. The overhead is covered by company operations.

$2mil will be used to do the coding and R&D.
The Feature set will be based on the out come of this meeting.

This will give the programmers their directives.

I mean I am sure you all have some ideas of what you would like to see in a sim.

This is what it's like to day. You have budgets and deadlines.

DH has written about the lack of Sims on the market. This is the new model that most groups have to follow.

At the end the price tag for the code will be $2 Mil.

Do you feel this is not enough money if so why?

I guess what I am getting at... what limits as users would you except?

And seeing that these kind of limits exist what kind of product would you expect.

I mean we do all understand the days of the Big projects are over.

Now we must adapt just as the market and developers have.

Please More Feedback

Thanks

-Bones
"The Research Boy"


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Aaron
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posted 05-16-2000 06:07 PM     Profile for Aaron   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
What I would like most to see is a stable multiplayer environment where different situations can be set up. The host should be able to set up limits on the aircraft flown and or era flown in, what weapons are allowed (ie. guns only, guns and IR, guns and all missiles). The players should be able to play 1v1, all the way up to 8v8.
Cooperative missions against the computer should be available and finally a form of capture the flag, or destroy the air base with a variety of maps that allow different tactics and the ability for the host to limit weapons to dumb bombs only, dumb and LGB, and finally full stand off weapons.
Multiple options, multiple planes and speed are the keys to longevity.
New planes or maps could be add ons a few months later. For example the first game could have the F-15 v the Mig-29 over Iraq, then have the Mig-15 v the F-86 over Korea, then the F-4 v the Mig-21 over Vietnam.
Personally I would like even more planes but good matchups where it is the pilot not the plane that determines the outcome it so much better than everyone flying one super plane that is better than all the others.
Then make it cheat proof.

Posts: 56 | From: Georgetown, Texas, USA | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged
craig2
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posted 05-16-2000 08:09 PM     Profile for craig2   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
2 Million dollars and a nice isolate place
(a logged cabin in the woods or a vacated
island), would develop a nice sim.

But, you're better off PUTTING THE MONEY IN
YOUR POCKET. Seeing that the market is for
more arcade. A serious sim for market hum bug. Not all trophy make big money, and that is rare to develop a trophy. You should
host a party invited potential investor(who are the wiser, strong on insitence), for financal, managerial and experience for support. Life is just not here for that sort of thing. Consider, the history of things, the market aren't for that type of quality, you have to look elsewhere.

If the reasons for a flightsim to come out is
it new inovations, then that find. Look at
Interactive Magic iF22 and FA18, with Photorealistic potential. And Falcon4, with it improvement in the Photorealistic area.
But, I done thing there quality to improve.
If there is, where is the LIFE LIKE SIM?
Would Life Like sim be the next step? I recall Jane's Longbow2 opening screen where
the artillery was destroyed {Life Like in apperance}. What I am getting at we can have financer for anything. Know anyone with
nohow to encourage a flight sim to be develope base on inovation {Life Like}?
I don't know do you?

[This message has been edited by craig2 (edited 05-18-2000).]


Posts: 12 | From: Glen Burnie, MD | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged
Round Table with Bones
unregistered

posted 05-17-2000 01:33 PM       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Ok gang This is great...!!!

also don;t get hung up on the money that surrounds the code building... That stuff is covered by the Parent company.

They have given us the 2 million for development...

Also guys remember that you have to say inside that bound... That the limit we have to follow 2 mill 2 years.

So far on the 3 threads I have this on we are getting great feedback.

Gang, The goal is to develope a model where the user meets the developer and the developer meets the user.

Think of this like a farmer's Market.. You tell the Farmer you have $20 and you want to know how much corn will he give you for that $20.

This means that even though you feel that $20 is not enough to get you the 50 units of corn you want. You know that $20 will get you what you need to sustain you.

Keep up the feedback.

Developers are watching.

-Bones
Errors Exist


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CJ Martin
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posted 05-17-2000 02:17 PM     Profile for CJ Martin   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Against my better judgement (every time I try to explain simple realities *from my point of view*, I get flamed for it, it seems)

quote:
Originally posted by Round Table with Bones:
also don;t get hung up on the money that surrounds the code building... That stuff is covered by the Parent company.

They have given us the 2 million for development...


I don't know what "parent company" you are talking about, but "overhead" typically comes out of your development budget. Overhead includes, but is not limited to:

office space
computers (ever price an SGI?)
software (this is HUGE!)
utilities (electricity and water)
alarm systems
pest control
internet access
phones

This stuff isn't "free" in the real world. Where do you think the "overhead" money comes from in the first place? Other projects successes, that's where.

quote:
Developers are watching.

With amusement...

No offense, but you seem to only be willing to look at part of the issue. OK, someone is willing to give you 2 million dollars to make a game...what do they expect in return?

Elsewhere, I've seen you say that to "break even" you need to only sell 85K units @ 39.99 a box...do you really think the publisher (let alone the developer, if they are seperate) sees anything like that amount from a retail sale?

Your goals are lofty, and I commend them, but it's easy to come up with a solution when you don't have to worry about all of the issues that seem unrelated to your goal, but in reality are closely linked.

-CJ

[This message has been edited by CJ Martin (edited 05-17-2000).]


Posts: 117 | From: Baltimore, MD | Registered: Dec 1999  |  IP: Logged
Kurt Plummer
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Member # 358

posted 05-17-2000 08:24 PM     Profile for Kurt Plummer   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Bones,

Managerial details asside, I appreciate the discussion but would like to ask the source for the other threads so I can crosscompare all the ideas coming out (PCSim and ??).

For myself, it should go in a direction not taken recently and as such should be 'scaleable' for challenge between platforms that share niche role rather than being 'multirole' across too many.

One way to do this would be to take an existing platform and see 'what it needs' (or already has) that could be further improved.
COTS reduction to costs on non-developmental base system: Comanche/Hokum meets A-10/Su-25 for instance. This automatically gives you a degree of 'gun fer fun' entrance with a systems-poor platform.

I would also plead for a 'real' theater. China vs. Taiwan. India vs. Pakistan.
Russia vs. Iran (coldwar). Iran vs. Iraq. Or, if you're costing will allow it, the breadth of the WARPAC/NATO confrontation.

Obviously, these could set the pace for available platforms as well. MiG-21 vs. F-14 where there are 2 MiG-21s and no Phoenix is less an even match than it sounds. Mirage F-1 vs. F-4D is another never-done option.

What I don't demand is 'photoreal' (sat matched 3D) terrain.

I like having a bit of imagination for some things, one of my favorite sims: /Tornado!/, would have nearly bland terrain by todays standards. Yet the way it swooped and shelfed it's terrain made you 'feel' the landscape so much more.

Non 1:1, colormapped, 3Drendered, yaddayadda, terrain gives me the options to change the elevations to a gameable-LOS extent and to add more individual icons in terms of ground force/structure detail.

More than that, I prefer CLEAN airframe shapes with larger quantities of detail in them.

I -like- Flanker to this extent but am less impressed by say JF-18. So like it or lump it, graphics have to come into play. Start high, 1024X768 if your NDS technology will allow it and include multischeme 'airbrush' options /within the game/ to allow the players to individualize their play without a Camo Commander or similar.

Threat Modelling. Beyond 'eras' of technology, I would include variable AI-bot fills to player-participant units (skill and numbers) and most importantly 'reaction times' across a given area. Does tripping one radar cue the whole net? Does the effect last past the destruction or bypass of that radar? Does the enemy have AEW? Does he have longwave surveillance? Does he have some kind of passive location (super RWR or PCLS/Silent Sentry) system?

Lastly, I too believe your sales strategy is off. You want 85K in six months when I think you should hope for a shorter 'splurge' window buy of say 20K titles in the first month or two and less than 40 in the long term (as the next-new eclipses you). The U.S. buying public is pathetic that way.

I would count out of country piracy, especially in SEA/SWA as giving you less than a third your world wide expected totals too.
All of which adds up to a 'market study' on WHEN to best release and thus when to begin the game workup and linear downstream tieins for advertising etc.

Movie theatres midsummer? TV at Christmas? Do you jump the market with a surprise hit and thus avoid the multi-clone competitor problem? Or do you 'build an expectation' and hope you sate it beyond all bounds? Does said expectation include cross-corporate coop to put multiple platforms into your online venu /soonest/?


Kurt Plummer


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Scuro
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posted 05-17-2000 09:25 PM     Profile for Scuro   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
I guess one way to find a source of funding would be for all interested sim fans to participate and buy 'shares' as to finance that whole venture. But with a guarantee for the players not to lose their money and get the game in the end. Also we could also finance future extensions for that same game like add-ons (other jets, sceneries, playable ground units - like Microprose planned to do it with Falcon3, but it never saw the day). I always liked Janes F15, and I bought it as soon as it was released. I still play it, but I reckon I would pay the same price for an upgrade (better hi-res graphics, and new maps).
That could be a solution.
And so, unless there were not enough people interested, we could have OUR game that the gaming industry never gave us, cuz they were focusing on marketting and making profit, rather than considering the needs for the fighter sim enthousiast.

Scuro

[This message has been edited by Scuro (edited 05-17-2000).]


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More Bones
unregistered

posted 05-18-2000 11:42 AM       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Ok, my daily additions:

****Cut From CJ Martin's Post*******************************

I don't know what "parent company" you are talking about, but
"overhead" typically comes out of your development budget. Overhead
includes, but is not limited to:

**He Listed a lot of Expensive Things that are part of Project development ***

This stuff isn't "free" in the real world.
********************************

Thanks CJ for the info and of course you are correct. when you say there is much more to "it" then what I have posted. Again this lack of detailing the entire cost structure is not for us to worry about. We will let the suits take care of that.

We as the developers need to only concern ourselves with the project development. And the limits that we have been issued.

Remember we want to see what can we do with less.

Less means:
Less time / Less Money / Less User Headache.

Which in turn will equal:
More Units Sold \ More Income \ More Development \ More Installs = More Customers \More Innovation

Less can equal more if we can do it right.

Budget over runs and time overruns might happen. But our business model just like any model has contingencies that the suits will deal with.

One such contingency plan is that if it can be determine by the developers that they can't build with in the limits then or that too many overruns occur, then Project termination becomes the ultimate cost saver.

Or If the Project fits with in the limits and at the same time visionaries can see something wonderful that needs a little more money and time to develop it may be possible to convince the suits for a little more of both. BUT it has to be worth it.

So again there are many more details... just think of this more as a pseudo assignment dealing with the development of the project and feature set aspects only.

Thanks

-Bones

PS from the tone of some of the post I want to be sure you all know that this is just to get some
Ideas of what makes a good simulation with in a set limits. I am not playing advocate for some X-Firm researching this idea.

When I say they are watching… I mean they are doing just like you are watching to see what can be done for the declining community.

But at the time I do know that companies are dying to make "Accessible Reality " Flight games that are not only realistic in a sense but fun for anyone that wants to play them.. Developers have a passion greater then your own when it comes to Flight a simulation, That's why they build them..

They are just trying to find ways to do stuff for less. Re-tooling shelving the high cost for something a little less troublesome. For both then and their customers.

We as game players will have to adapt and re-tool and except this new model. Gone are the days of the Super Sims. The all in one box wonders. The Future is about limits that led to less which can equal more.

These threads are about that ability to adapt.

Thanks Again.

-Bones
Flight Operations Richmond VA
[email protected]


Errors Exist


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Wulfrick
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posted 05-18-2000 08:35 PM     Profile for Wulfrick   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Ok, let's think about the technical side of this proposed game.

First, we decide what our target system is. To avoid alienating players, the minimum spec must be a genuine attempt to define a system which will run the game at a minimum of 20 FPS. I'd say we should aim for a nominal PII-450 with 3D accelerator voodoo3 class, and 64 MB of system ram. Fancy sound is not all-important in a flight simm, so let's say generic CLabs compatable PCI sound card. Because we want the game to be widely appealing on the net, say a minimum of 56.6K/V90 modem, but preferably a single ISDN or better. Also included must be a baseline 4-button joystick.

Having decided on a minimum spec, we now have guidelines for a minimum technical spec. for the engine- we can use at least 16MB of textures for a start, and support resolutions as dictated by the user's graphics card, i.e. minimum of say 800*600*16 bit, but featuring support for 1600*1200*32bit for those 2GHz CPUs & next-generation graphics cards.
Support for hardware Transform & Lighting would be good, so such things as dynamic point and specular lighting can be accelerated. While we are discussing the graphics specs, we can also include support for S3's S3TC texture compression, so the game can use 2048*2048*16/32bit textures and have an even greater level of texture detail. In-game anti-aliasing could be included, though this is best left to the GPU on the graphics card. 64 MB of texture memory can be expected, if not 128MB in 2 years, further increasing the possibilities for hugely detailed textures.
In 2 years the polygon and texel throughput of general graphics cards will be at a level where having extremely well detailed modells for every in game object will be expected. Think Flanker 2 at the very least. Modells could easily be comprised of 5000-10000 polys, and ought to dynamically scale with distance.
Still on the subject of the graphics engine, given sufficient preparitory work there is no reason forthe engine to support Bezier patch rendering (a-la Quake Arena), that scales in complexity with distance. options to adjust and tweak the graphics settings should of course be comprehensive, but the game should also feature a routine that attempts to auto-detect the user's system performance. And this should not be merely a measurement of the CPU speed, but a good benchmark of CPU FPU performance, memory throughput, graphics bus throughput and graphics card fill rate/polygon output rate. Think Mad Onion 2000 here, but not as lengthy of course.

So, for the graphical engine itsself, we can compile a wish list of features:

1) Variable-size texture mapping.
2) Bezier patch rendering.
3) Dynamic volumetric point, particle and specular lighting.
4) Volumetric fog effects.
5) Fully-lit particle engine.
6) Dynamic multi-layer texture overlay.
7) Dynamic modell alteration.
8) Dynamic modell complexity.
9) Texture noise.
10) Dynamic per-polygon detail texturing.

Since we are discussing a flight simm, we want terrain to be nice obviously. As such, to keep performance at the maximum possible level, the game engine would have to support a range of differing levels of detail- i.e. in regions of desert or plains the pre-alpha-blended ground texture polygons can be reasonably large without sacrificing too much graphical quality, but for airfields and regions of high elevation detail the size of the texture patches must be far less.

Um... I can't think of anything more for now on the graphics front, appart from the fact that the engine should supprt all the ususal weather effects, precipitation, volumetric clouds, real-time graduated day-night cycle, accurate star positions, a large range of cameras including a DID-style browser, accurate moon phases and of course accurate modelling of real-world locations.

As far as sound is concerned, sound systems such as EAX and A3D are not particularly relevant to flght simms. As long as the sound engine supports 3D sound and doppler shift, then that would do nicely.

Now we come to input devices. In 2 years all input devices will be USB at the very least, probably FireWire, so both ought to be supported. For those die-hard simmers, dual throttle quadrants (if appropriate) and seperate rudder pedals and UFC should also be supported. The user should be able to re-map ALL commands to his input devices, and ideally the controller responses ought to be re-mappable a-la JFA-18 and Flanker 2.

On a more technical side, the game must be entirely written in C++ and/or assembler, to ensure maximum code robustness and maximum optimisation. Support for advanced instruction sets such as SSE and 3DNow! would also be beneficial, since much of the sound processing could be done for example by the DSP instructions included in the Athlon's enhanced 3DNow! instruction set.

Development of the game ought to be completed inside of 18 months, followed by a maximum-intensity period of alpha and beta testing. The best way to do this is through a "net test", i.e. a beta released to the general public requesting bug reports. This ensures that the game will have been tested on the widest possible variety of hardware configurations. TICKIT code certification would be advisable, further insuring bug-free release code. Thus there ought to be no excuses for any patches other than those offering product enhancements, i.e. add-ons, be they missions, campaigns, colour schemes, new objects or whatever.

On an administrative level the most important aspect of running a team of software engineers (or at least one that I have seen to work very well) is having regular morning meetings to discus general progress and offer group solutions for specific problems encountered. This really works! And you can all enjoy a cup of coffee at the same time!

Ah well. That's all I can think of right now.
As far as the game itself is concerned, there is no excuse for not having dynamic campaigns, and the best operate on a action-reaction princple (think EECH here). Supply should be properly modelled, as should reinforcements (NOT like TAW!!!).
The larger the number of campaign scenarios, flyable aircraft and modelled weapon systems the better, although quality should never be sacrificed for quantity, and utter realism should be the central goal in all areas, possibly with novice options. Training missions are a must, and they should be detailed with voice overs (e.g. Flanker 2.).

The users should be able to contribute to the future of the game with missions and campaigns, and possibly other things such as cammo schemes.

Ah well. Said my $0.02 worth.

Cheers, Wulfrick.

------------------
Make sure the enemy is willing to die for his country. Then you both have the same aim in mind!


Posts: 399 | From: York, England | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged
RaptorJock
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posted 05-18-2000 10:24 PM     Profile for RaptorJock   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
I think it's smart what MS is Doing with Flight Simulator 2000. There is a Prof. Edition and a standard one. Why can't developers just make different "flavors" of the same game? I know you can change realism and graphics and gameplay in a game, but you can only go so far. If the developer just packaged the same basic game with changed underworkings to optimize what the user wants such as a superb flight model, better graphics, or just a more mainstream arcade version, then they could make profits in all areas of the consumer market. its really the only way to go. I mean.. does making a "one size fits all" game for a mass market in a genere that never was very popular in the first place make sense? did that last sentence? not much. You just cant keep making the same kind of game and hope that all odf a sudden that everyone will love them. its just not gonna happen. SO... make different versions of a game or a different model of a game.. like cars have, just not so many versions. 3 or 4 would be plenty enough. Just make sure they are compatable with each other for online play in case.. ya wanna play online.. ok that was dumb to say, so i'll admit it now, but anyway.. all iI'm really saying is that game makers will make more money if they offer differnet versions of the game to accomidate more people? agreed?
later ;^)

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