While mostly a table top gamer, I also play video games. It’s an even split between PC and console. One thing I rarely do is jump right on the latest release. I will usually wait for it to be out for a bit and see what the reviews are. However, I will still follow the development of games that sound interesting.
In 2009, I was following the development of a game that I thought looked interesting and was looking forward to see what it would be like. The game was This is Vegas. It was originally being produced by Midway Games, and was going to be a platformer in the style of Grand Theft Auto.
Notice my liberal use of the past tense?
Although not well known to the gaming public at large, This is Vegas is known in the industry as one of the biggest money wasters ever to not result in a title being released.
So let’s take a look at what could have been, why it wasn’t, and what it says about the state of the game industry.
The premise of the game is that you are a street-smart hustler born and raised in Las Vegas. You learn that a large multimedia company is planning to buy up all the casinos (and other property on the strip), with the goal of turning the town into a watered down family friendly version of itself. You set off on a series of missions with the goal of opposing this change, and making sure that Vegas can still live up to its nickname of Sin City.
The game would have broken its missions down into four categories: gambling, fighting, driving, and partying. All we will ever really know about how the game mechanics would have worked is from this video that goes into the partying mechanic. At the time it looked interesting as it was clear the idea was to give the players the feel of being the cool guys, who knows how to party in Vegas.
This was, of course, no guarantee of the game being a hit, but it looked like it would at least have had a shot.
So why did the game get canned?
Development on the game started in 2006. It was meant to be competition for games like the Grand Theft Auto series. This was an era when a successful game could be made for $3 million. It was also a time when game budgets started to rise. At the time, there were warnings about game development costs raising as high as $15 million. It turns out that this was a low estimate.
Midway Games went through bankruptcy in 2009, and that June sold all of their assets (including This is Vegas) to Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment. At the time of the sale, Midway had already put $43 million into production of the game. In August of 2010, Warner announced that the game was being canceled. While there are no precise figures available, it is estimated that about $50 million had been spent on development, and with at least nine additional months needed, it was not cost effective to continue. In the end, it was felt that this title would not be a big enough seller to justify the continuing cost.
What does this say about the industry?
Even though video games bring in several billion dollars a year, you will always hear that, after a game has been shipped, a company will lay off the developers. The truth behind this is that while games may be very successful, the high production costs cut into the bottom line.
Just as an example, it is estimated that the development cost for Grand Theft Auto V was $137 million USD, and $265 million USD once you included marketing. Of course this is a game that broke $1 billion USD in sales within three days of release, so you can argue that the cost was justified. But what if it had been a flop?
Really, it is the same story as any other form of media. The big companies are going to want guaranteed hits before making an investment, leaving innovation to the smaller companies who are going to take risks and probably need a crowd source campaign to fund the project.
And what about This is Vegas. Well since Duke Nukem Forever finally released, This is Vegas now holds the dubious distinction of being the game industry’s most expensive piece of vaporware. Somehow, I don’t foresee anyone making any effort to rescue it from this fate.
Today we have our first article by Fanboy News Network Horror Correspondent Jennifer Lovely:
The success: Jug Face grabbed me the moment the credits began; it pulled me in with its primitive
folk art animation that foreshadows the movie’s undertone, style and people. I was
really struck by the charisma of each the primary characters. The sympathy that you
feel for the young woman in the lead role is surprisingly strong in a short period
of time. You immediately gather that she has wits and is struggling to survive as
well as she can in a backward, cultish community. Having grown up in a small town in
a rural area, you see a lot of that tough, almost emotionless, rearing. It was very
familiar to me and I understood how emotionally starved she was, and why she would
make choices that would normally horrify or disgust me. Both the special effects and
sound effects are well used and give a sense of foreboding, while never being
intrusive or overplayed. This is a girl who fights and you root for her to make her
escape, yet when the end comes you understand the choices she makes.
The movie that fails: The Lords of Salem is not completely without merit. The quality of the supporting
cast is amazing. Whenever Bruce Davison, Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson, or Dee Wallace
enter the scene you are captivated. Every time I was about to turn it off, they
reappeared. The atmosphere and set combine to create their own character that
completely stands out. But, as soon as the story starts, things go downhill.
Firstly, the ominous sound use is ham-fisted and oppressive, it starts well but is
so overused it becomes cliché. Next, everything around Sheri’s character shows how
strong and what an individual she is (female DJ in a male dominated industry,
especially metal), but when she is on the screen you never see any of what they hint
at. The fact that she is attending NA and fighting to stay sober speaks of strength,
to me, in theory. But after five days of what is, in essence, bad dreams she starts
using again. It’s like she is only the shadow of an amazing person, walking around,
but that you never really get to see on screen. She is empty and defeated, and that
isn’t interesting. I don’t place the blame completely on Sheri Moon Zombie’s
shoulders. All she did is work within the story, and it was the story that failed
her. Because the moment things start going badly, it’s just a descent into oblivion
with no effort on the character’s part for any other outcome. And I just don’t find
The kickoff for convention season, in the Pacific NorthWest, is just around the corner, which means the people who put on these shows are gearing up with prep for the challenges that go with running an event with potentially thousands of people attending.
Last year a lot of focus was on creating awareness of some of the pitfalls that exist in the convention scene, with particular focus on harassment at conventions and the associated gate keeper mentality that lead to the idea of the fake nerd girl. A lot of work was done to bring these conversations to the forefront (such as John Scalzi’s call for all conventions to have a clear anti-harassment policy).
With the greater focus on these issues, I think this year is going to be about how these policies are enforced, and in general how we, as a community, can insure that conventions are a safe environment.
I’ve heard some discussion that this is a non-issue and focusing on it is actually a detriment to the convention community. For these people I would like to present the events surrounding a Seattle area convention called Aki Con.
Aki Con is an anime convention, held in the Seattle area, that is going into it’s 7th year. It already had a bad reputation, due to putting it’s artists alley in the parking garage the previous year, but the issue at hand happened this last October. Aki Con had regularly hired a specific DJ to play at the event. It was learned that the DJ was a sex offender who had done prison time in Arizona, but had failed to register in the state of Washington after he moved. The convention was informed of this, but did not remove him. During the convention an 18 year old girl was drugged and assaulted. The DJ was arrested and is awaiting trial. More details about this can be found here.
Aki Con posted a statement about the incident that can be found here. If you look at the statement it has the appearance of a neutral statement, but it is actually siding with the DJ and placing blame on the victim. It is also worth noting that Aki Con has no formal harassment policy.
Of course I was horrified to hear about what had happened, particularly as a member of the Seattle convention community. I am also disturbed by the fact that the Aki Con staff has gone completely silent. The community, however, has not. The story has become a rallying cry for making conventions safe and not allowing something like this to happen again.
And there are people taking this very seriously. The organizers of one of Seattle’s biggest events, Emerald City Comicon, are being proactive in making sure that their convention is as safe as possible. ECCC is conducting training for their volunteer staff, with a heavy focus on harassment prevention. This means that the staff will know exactly what to do if they witness something or an attendee approaches them with an issue. The staff is making sure they are also up to speed in case a volunteer needs to bring them in on something. The anti-harassment policy is going to be very prominent in the program book, and lay out what is and is not acceptable and what the penalties could be, including being booted from the show. It also instructs the attendees on who they can approach if they have an issue. The staff is not only working out a system of dealing with problems, but on recognizing and possibly rewarding good behavior.
I can only hope that this level of proactivity will become the norm for conventions in the future.
Outside of that it is up to those of us who attend to make sure we are keeping up the pressure to make conventions a safe place, both by watching out for each other and not supporting events that do not value the safety of attendees.
Another year has come and gone and, with that in mind, I want to reflect on what 2013 was for me and this site.
A big change this year was getting help in the form of a beta reader/editor. First was my friend Matt Hamer, and when he could no longer do it Stax Blackmoore stepped in. It’s all part of my effort to improve the overall quality of the site and my writing.
Another big change was that, after a couple of years of talking about it, I finally launched the podcast. Like my writing, it is a learning process, but I am happy with how the first five episodes have gone.
In one of those podcasts, I declared Jennifer Lovely to be the official Fanboy News Network horror expert which, at this point, largely means that she will be making semi-regular appearances on the podcast to talk about horror.
I also worked on the audiobook The Hole Behind Midnight, which is currently being released as a podcast. I am linking to the podcast here on this site with a roughly three week delay behind its main site.
Looking at my most popular columns of the year shows me that I should stick with the variety I use now, as the top ten covered several subjects.
I found my theme months useful as a writing exercise, but the horror review month was definitely better received than the series about the first year of Magic: The Gathering.
One thing that caught me by surprise was that while I was reviewing the list of sites that refer back to his one, I found Wikipedia on the list. It turns out that the Wikipedia article on the web series The Joker Blogsused my review as a cited reference, and even quoted it. Of course that article no longer exists on Wikipedia so it was a brief moment.
And that closes the year, for 2013.
So what do I plan for 2014?
Writing wise, I want to keep up the pace of putting out an article every Saturday. The deadline is good for me and I can only improve by keeping at it.
I also want to keep trying to produce a podcast each week. I have not stabilized on a day yet, although I would like to keep it early in the week.
I want to get more people involved in the site; specifically, I want to get a regular group of contributors to appear on the podcast. As I mentioned earlier, I now have an official horror expert. I am working on arrangements for a comics expert, a film expert, and a convention expert.
I am also in the early stages of developing an audio show, that I am also planning to produce through this site. Whether that sees the light of day in 2014 or 2015 remains to be seen.
I also want to work on updating the site design a bit. I am looking into the best way to do that now.
Finally I would like to find at least one other contributor to produce semi regular content for the site.