Ask Me Stuff

Ask Me Stuff

Every Wednesday I ask you to Ask Me Stuff. If you have a burning question about the games industry, leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it this afternoon.

I’ll be doing this every Wednesday.

Now, fire away with those questions.


  • Morning!

    Okay, There are some games out there that are very generous with letting people in to their betas. I can see why they do need the large amounts of online games and such, but from my point of view, some games simply don’t need to be giving out the huge amount of beta keys to people.

    For example, games such as Battlefield Bad Company 2 had a pretty long beta testing that most people could get in to. I played the beta and by the time the game came out… I was over it and didn’t feel the urge to purchase the game.

    I guess the same can be said to some demos of games. There are demos out there that are quite large and give you a really good taste of the game. Should developers look at the way that they structure the demo so it is more of a time allowance (30 minutes) rather than something that can be played over and over.

    So I guess my question is this. Do you think that giving the general gaming population access to these betas and decent demos is hurting the sale figures for that game in the end?

    • IMO, every game should have a demo. Whether it’s time limited or not depends on the game. Game’s like Just Cause 2 or Burnout Paradise needed time limits because they were more of an open world game. If it’s a linear game the tutorial and usually the first level should be included.

      The only reason I buy indie games on release is because, for most of them, there’s a demo and I can determine whether or not I’ll like the game. Far Cry 2 is probably the only purchase I’ve regretted in these past few years.

      • I liked Valves approach to a demo in the form of Half-Life: Up-link, where as instead of giving you a level from the game, they made a short story set within the world and using the engine, there should be more of that.

        • Thats a good point

          it removes there issues of the level not making much sense when taken out of context to

          but things like BC2 in my mind the issue was that while we were allowed into the beta the actuall copy on release date hadnt fixed the issues with the beta which was really offputting to me

          the thing is tho as much as they hand out a heap of beta keys they dont serve the purpose as beta keys used to theres still the core playerbase that will actually report stuff cos theve done it for years but then theres everyone else who as you said just wants a demo or free time with the game(MMO’s)

          • That is another major issue with the beta’s these days. They are being given to the general public who are seeing the betas as ‘free games’. I strongly believe that 95% of the ‘testers’ wouldn’t even report a bug if they came across one.

          • Most beta tests these days, especially any open beta, is about testing the online infrastructure out in the wild, making sure the matchmaking is doing what it was designed to, observing the play balance when in the hands of tens of thousands of players, and just generally informing the developer of whether it’s all on track.

            Of course, the higher profile beta tests are really all about the marketing campaign, but that’s another issue.

    • Do betas and demos hurt sales figures? Only if the game is poor. Otherwise, a beta or demo of a good game will only benefit sales.

      I can see what you’re saying about betas or demos offering too much content. Logically, it makes a certain amount of sense that a player may get their fill that way. But I think that’s surely a rare case. As long as you’ve enjoyed a beta or demo, then it makes far more sense that you’d then go out and purchase the full game.

  • Given the shakeup at Microsoft, and Microsofts instinctive need to sell more of everything… do you think we will see a return to the purchasing / funding of more microsoft first party game developers, in an effort to get more exclusives and sell more consoles?

    And on a side note, did the personnell from ensemble studios form a new company… or did they get redistributed accross MS teams?

    • Yeah, RARE don’t seem to be doing much for the fans of Goldeneye / Perfect Dark / Conker’s Bad Fur Day.

      A Conker’s sequel would be awesome.

    • Microsoft’s approach to first-party development clearly changed when Don Mattrick took over from Peter Moore in heading up the Xbox business. It was, presumably, Mattrick’s decision to trim its internal development, including the closure of Ensemble, allowing Bizarre to be purchased by Activision and negotiating Bungie’s return to independence.

      If Mattrick leaves, perhaps we’ll see a new strategy for first-party development. But that’s just speculation. Right now, they’re got Rare and Lionhead working on Natal and Fable properties, while 343 Industries is doing something to do with Halo.

      There’s a bunch of guys from Ensemble who formed various studios – Robot, Bonfire and Windstorm spring to mind – but I don’t think we’ve heard anything about what they’re doing.

  • Dear Mr. Wildgoose,

    What steps did you take to become a full-time game reveiwerist?

    Did you slowly work your way up having to write about all sorts of other poop that you weren’t interested in?

    I have freinds that review music(albums, shows, DVDs and whatever)and they started working for those free-press magazines you see around all the music stores and the like.
    Their only payment to begin with was free CDs and the occasional concert ticket.

    What aboot yuirself?

    Sincerley yours Jimu_Hsien

  • Hey David, DotA was being maintained by Icefrog for quite sometime, he is now working on a project for Valve, also sometime ago i heard whispers and rumors of a new MDK game, any insight?

    • MDK is owned by Interplay. And Interplay don’t really seem to be in the business of making games themselves any more. It’s possible someone may purchase the rights from them, but unlikely. I’m not sure the letters MDK really hold much value these days.

  • Continuing from Daniel’s comment that every game should have a demo, as a 360 and PS3 owner I have never understood why Sony does not mandate that all PSN games require demos.

    Microsoft does this with all Live Arcade games, and to me it make sense. Both to the customer who can try before they buy, and the developer who gets a chance to promote their game through more than screen shots or movies.

    Dave, do know you Sony’s official (or off the record) stance as to why they do not require demos for all PSN games? Perhaps this is something they are adding to the new paid PSN?

    Sony have always been good at copying the best ideas from other companies, I don’t know why they let this one go.

    • As far as I know Sony don’t make it mandatory to have a demo for all games because it costs money to put them up for download and they don’t charge for their online service…yet. Whereas Microsoft can cover that cost with XBox live subscriptions.

      • I’d be inclined to agree with this. As a (currently) free service, the cost of hosting the demos on PSN isn’t worth it.

        • This would be a valid point, except that if you look at the 360 Arcade demos they are just the full version that have been cut short or have a time limit.

          Thus, no extra storage is required, and only a minimal amount of extra coding effort by the developer would be required to run the game in demo or full mode (as a professional programmer myself, I can safely say that with a bit of planning at the start of the project this would be a small change to the code).

          Perhaps Sony’s PSN infrastructure isn’t set up as smartly as Microsoft’s. But then, once again, that brings us to the original question for Dave – Why doesn’t Sony think that demos for their PSN games are worth while?

          • It might not cost anything to host them, space is cheap! But bandwidth is not!

            If you put a demo up, you will have a TON of downloads. How many Demo’s have you played that you never bought the game for it?

            For everyone of them you are costing that company money. Also sony charges companies for bandwidth, to force them to provide a demo to cost them money is a bad buisness desision.

            Xbox live doesnt charge because you pay them money, they make more than enough to offset their bandwidth cost so they dont need to charge the publisher money so they can demand a demo.

          • Very good point about bandwidth, Lorrie.

            I’ve only got a Silver account, so Microsoft doesn’t get any money from me for my bandwidth usage. But, granted, they probably get enough from all the Gold members to cover people like me.

            So perhaps demos will become more of a standard when Sony introduce the paid premimum PSN?

          • Given how much BW they offer up without charging, by way of game trailers and videos (Qore etc) on PSN, and then through Vidzone too, I can’t really see that Bandwidth would be that big an issue for them.

            (yeah vidzone mightn’t be the best example given the advertising within, but hey – it’s designed to be left running, and chews up 400-500MB per hour)

    • im speculating here drew but i would guess that the enforced demo thing is something microsoft deems a service to charge for and that the PSN might be worried about backlash on there ends

      plus taking your developer wanting to show off there game in more than just screenshots if this was true they wouldnt have to mandate that every game needed a demo because they would be doing it anyways

      theres also the fact a demo can have just as negative effect as it can positive

    • As a regular to the PSN store, I understand the frustration with lack of any sort of preview to a title. It is rare that you are able to even view any sort of preview, whether it be screen shots, a short video or a playable demo.

      I think they would sell more if they included some screenshots or a small trailer.

      • Most themes (the animooted ones) have preview movies available these days – you’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to do the same thing for games.

        That said, there’s quite afew game trailers up there currently – it’s just a shame that you’ve got to navigate to a completely different section (to the game itself) to access it.

    • It’s possible that bandwidth is an issue. That’s why you see demos released on 360 first or demos removed from PSN after a few weeks – it’s expensive to offer the demo over PSN because Sony charge the bandwidth back to the publisher.

      But I do think this is just a symptom of Sony’s lack of online focus. Simply put: Xbox Live is a better service than PSN because Microsoft understands the space better. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Sony makes more reliable hardware and Microsoft makes better software, given the history of the two companies.

      Microsoft has approached online with a relatively coherent and consistent vision. Sony hasn’t. Sony’s been lagging behind and playing catch-up ever since Microsoft beat them to market. The lack of clear, enforceable guidelines regarding PSN games is just one aspect of this.

      But hey, PSN is free.

  • Would you hazard a guess at any surprises that may be sprung on us at this years E3? Do you think that a PSP2 might be unveiled or new hardware for Nintendo/Microsoft or a software surprise or either of the big 3?

    • I’m not expecting any new hardware aside from Nintendo’s 3DS. The focus at this E3 will likely be on software and accessories, from Zelda, Halo and Killzone to the Vitality Sensor, Natal, Move and 3D gaming.

      Surprise games? I think the only real surprises will be which third-party games are shown at which first-party press conferences.

  • Hey dave ( this has probs been asked before but) when they send stuff to you for review or what not. Do you get any say in the platform you play on or do they just say heres a 360 review Code deal with it or vice verca

    also is there a slight aversion to giving out review code for PC in the worry that someone might then upload that or unlike movies its to regulated(as opposed to the thousands of place that end up with the film early) to allow those kind of leaks from review companys

    • Sometimes we get a choice; sometimes we don’t. Most games have a lead platform and so every new build of the game will be ready first on that particular platform. That flows through to the review process too, meaning the press gets sent the 360 code (more often than not) because that’s the format that was ready to send out.

      The lead platform is typically the one on which the publisher expects to sell the most copies. So it makes sense to have that version in reviewers’ hands. That’s why the PC gets ignored.

  • I asked this question a few months ago, you said you wanted to tackle it more in-depth in an editorial. Anyway here it is again.

    Has the rise of the DLC killed the conventional expansion? I personally like expansions way more than DLC because it seems like the developers are actually trying to earn your money rather than tiny game additions, what’s your take on it? Has DLC killed the expansion or can the two co-exist?

    Remember the good old days when DLC was called a patch? I seem to remember Blizzards Diablo 2 giving us about 200 new items and runewords and gameplay additions free of charge with patch 1.10.

    • As an example, WoW has expansions that are incredibly vast, and well worth the money consumers pay for them. Yet Blizzard still issues regular content patches (though I suppose the cost of these is integrated into the subscription fee…).

      For me, an expansion is of the order of Tribunal and Bloodmoon for Morrowind. Large, meaty supplements that added lots of new content, without being overly pricey.

      To some extent, the prevalence of DLC allows developers to issue smaller chunks of content at a faster rate than previous distribution methods, and expansions as such are thus fading over time. Furthermore, the ease of access to DLC over traditional expansions causes far more people to fork out for the content, as it is usually not too expensive.

      Bethesda, at least, still seem to have some notion of what the consumer wants in terms of expanded content at a reasonable price (well, assuming we conveniently ignore the infamous ‘Horse Armour’).

      • Not too expensive my ass, DLC gives developers the right to give us a few new skins and maps and charge $20 bucks for it. I could honestly waste $50 these days and not have anything to show for it. But less than 10 years ago $50 got me Diablo 2: Lord of destruction, doesn’t seem fair does it?

        You’re right about WoW, but that game is a unique example, because they could care less if people actually pay for the physical product, it makes up so little of their revenue that they actually encourage (in the original wow manual) you to give the game out to your friends so they can install it as well.

        I’m taking about it in a broader sense, is DLC the future? I can only think of one game that came out with an actual expansion in 2010, but one look at PSN shows almost all games these days offer something, that I personally think isn’t worth the money.

        Maybe I’m biased because I grew up on expansions, where a developer really needed to include enough content to justify a physical product. It seems to me that DLC is the new word for “Patch” in the current generation.

    • I think the two – small content updates (extra weapons, new maps, etc) and large content updates (or what we used to call expansion packs) – will happily co-exist for years to come, albeit to varying degrees.

      You’ve got to remember we’re still in the early days of PDLC (the P is premium, ie. paid-for); publishers are still working out what consumers are actually interested in, and consumers are still deciding what they’re willing to pay for – and how much.

      It’s easy to point to Blizzard and say, why doesn’t everyone else do that? But WoW is subscription-based, so players are paying for that additional content between expansion packs. And Diablo was a long time ago – we’ll see if they’re quite as generous when Diablo III comes out.

      Why does Valve offer free, regular content updates to TF2? Because Valve is also selling a service in the form of Steam. Valve is prepared to take a loss on giving away content in the expectation it’ll bring in more and more users to Steam who will eventually spend far more money on other products than they ever would have made from selling TF2 DLC.

      Fallout 3 – and to a certain extent Borderlands – proved that proper expansions can work as DLC. Modern Warfare 2 proved that you can sell a bunch of maps for a crazy amount of money. Both approaches can work.

      DLC is more than just another revenue stream for the publisher or a way of enjoying more content for the player. It’s also a strategy aimed at encouraging consumers to hang onto their games rather than trade them in. That’s why DLC is announced before or at launch, and that’s why the first DLC often arrives within weeks of launch. The publisher doesn’t want you buying, finishing and returning your game within the retailer’s 7-day returns policy; it doesn’t want you trading that game in so someone else can buy it secondhand.

      That’s why we see these smaller DLC updates at the expense of larger expansions. Because they’re quicker to produce. Where appropriate – RPGs, especially – we’ll see larger packs amongst these smaller updates. But I think for the most part, the large expansion pack simply doesn’t suit the majority of games.

      • Have you heard of the new strategy to keep gamers from buying pre owned games? That one time online play code. UFC Undisputed 2010 came out today, as far as I know it’s the first game to actually use it. Talk about a quick turnover from concept to reality, I first heard of that code idea just last week on kotaku.

        I honestly hope this is limited to a few games and never kicks off, because I often buy pre owned games. This code may do its job, but it feels like a punch to the gut.

        Charging for content is OK, but this I can’t understand, are publishers/developers really that strapped for cash after new game sales that they need to charge for online access?

        • ‘Project $10’ has been kicking around for a while now (at least since Mass Effect 2, if not before), and I don’t have too many problems with it, purchasing first hand and all.

          But to ‘charge’ for such a significant portion of a game is rubbish. Add-ons and DLC is fine, but online multiplayer functionality? Damn…

  • Hi David, With the current state of the games industry, Microsoft restructuring, PS3 starting to gain ground on the XBOX, Wii sales slowing etc, which console do you think is the best buy/best value for the next 12 months? I would buy a HD Wii in a second, but I think Nintendo are ignoring this aspect a little too much. Do you think the XBOX has had it’s day, or is there life left in it? Is the PS3 the best choice of the three moving forward? Thanks.

    • I’m not sure a lot has really changed in terms of which console to buy.

      If you’re a hardcore gamer, look at the 360 and PS3 first. If you love playing online, the 360 is still your best bet; indeed, Xbox Live is a superior overall service to PSN, there is no question about that. If you don’t care about online play, look at the handful of exclusive titles: are you a Halo/Gears/Mass Effect/Forza girl or an Uncharted/Killzone/God of War/Gran Turismo dude?

      I love my Wii, but as a core gamer it’s not my first choice console. So, unless you’ve got young kids or curious gaming parents, I wouldn’t recommend the Wii as a sole console.

      The good thing about buying a console today rather than 3-4 years ago is that they’re now so much cheaper you can probably afford to buy more than one – if not all three.

  • Having just returned from an E3 preview can you tell the kotaku kommunity (sorry) what games over the years have dissapointed the most after a strong showing at this event and what has polished up well beyond expectations after the initial impressions?

  • This is actually for Seamus:
    What happened to the Byteside Games?!?! Last podcast showing in iTunes is 14-Apr.

  • While my head is still galloping through the wild west somewhere…

    …has any DLC been announced for RDR yet? On the main menu screen of the PS3 it’s almost set up in anticipation of “Ballad of Big Gay Marston” or something similar.

    If there is, I’m just hoping MS don’t have time-exclusivity on it… that wait for BOGT/TLAD was too long 🙁

  • Hi David,

    Thanks again for confirming that I am the only person excited about backbreaker in Australia… (This week in games).

    When talking about it, you said it was delayed by AIE (Not the Australian institute of Embalmers as I found out!). I now understand that some retailers (EB and GAME) have on their websites that this is coming out 3/6/10.

    My question is: who are AIE and what is their role in game distribution. More broadly, what is the process of going from the game going gold (I learnt that is the term for the creation of the master disc!) to getting on a shelve in Australia. Where are games actually made, printed and what channels (import agent, wholesale, retail) do they go through.

    Is is cheaper to manufacture O/S and import to AUS or do we manufacture them here?


    • AIE handles the Australia distribution of titles from 505 Games (Backbreaker), Rising Star (No More Heroes 2) and other overseas games publishers who have no office in Australia. AIE purchase stock from these publishers and sell it into retail.

      Most games are manufactured overseas and then transported to Australia. We saw the release of Silent Hill: Shatterd Memories and Split/Second delayed, as the Icelandic volcano disrupted flights from Europe where the stock originated.

      You’ll also notice many game discs are printed with various European classification markings alongside the Australian rating. It’s cheaper to press all the PAL territories together and then freight them overseas than run a separate and much smaller batch locally.

  • Hi Dave,

    Sorry to bother you with another dumb question.

    The avatars on Xbox live.
    Are they supposed to make noise, and I’ve just missed a setup option somewhere… or are they mute. I know it’s a dumb question, but the lightsaber avatar props don’t make noise… and what’s the point of a lightsaber that doesn’t make noise?

    Also, I haven’t yet seen the Kotaku community service award… at what point do I start giving my neighbours dirty looks?

    • Clicking the right tumbstick will make the avatar burp in the customisation menus…

      And I think the community service award was on a one-week hiatus due to David being overseas.

  • Hi Dave,

    I’ve found a few sources pointing to Transformers: War for Cybertron not supporting any sort of split screen, leaving the coop online only. It just seems like an odd thing to leave out with all the work High Moon has put into the co-op campaign.

    If this is the case, is it something that could be added by way of DLC in future?

    (Yeah, my inner 8 year old has big hopes and dreams for this one.)


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