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Blogged Out: 'Healthy Mercs'

In his latest 'Blogged Out' column, veteran UK writer Jim Rossignol takes a look at the world of developer blogging, including Clint Hocking's views on convergence, the Gaming Mercenaries' on freelancing, and Habitat's Randy Farmer on invisible gre
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week: medical insurance for the converging mercenaries of virtual death. What Kind Of Convergence? Ubisoft's premier blogger continues his anti-convergence theme this week. The masterful Clint Hocking responds to the claim that film producer Michael Bay intends to set about “creating a video game that matches the quality of a feature film” by saying: “I love how this statement implies that games don't have the quality of a feature film. I can only assume they mean creating a game whose real-time 3d visuals match the quality of pre-rendered visuals in a modern 3d film? If they actually mean that they think 'Armageddon' (5.8 average on Imdb) or 'Pearl Harbor' (5.3) is 'better' than 'Half-Life 2' (9.6 average on Game Rankings) or 'GTA: San Andreas' (9.5)... then, well, whatever, I guess I don't really have a response to that.” Following the piece, one of Hocking's readers, “Carter”, suggests in a comment: “Well, there's one thing the film directors know how to do that the game designers should take note of: owning their own destinies.” It's an interesting point: for all the talk of convergence, perhaps the real lessons that games can learn from film are on the organizational, business end. I've talked a great deal in these columns about how a games version of studio system might work, because it's a topic that developer bloggers bring up again and again. It seems as if the crucial problem could be outsourcing: rather than assembling large teams studios need to be little more than a handful of experts who are able to commission their work to third parties, just as some studios have already been trying to. The problem, of course, is who runs the third party. Those Mercs Speaking of which, I've just stumbled up a site aimed at games industry freelancers, called Gaming Mercenaries. The site runs pieces such as this one about the kind of mercenary you should aim to be, a 'grunt' or a 'commando': “In a perfect world, talent would be the sole differentiator between a grunt and a commando, but it doesn’t always work this way. In a capitalistic society your worth is determined partially by your skill, and very much by your reputation, negotiation skill, and ability to self-promote. How much better is a BMW than a Hyundai? You’d be surprised at how little the difference really is, yet BMWs command prices at multiples of a Hyundai because minor perceived differences are effective value multipliers.” And there's this rather more practical piece about the problems of healthcare coverage for independent contactors: “I would submit that if you asked most independent workers to identify their biggest concerns about their career choice, the top two answers would be some combination of “finding work” and “health insurance”. One of America’s prime problems today is the current system of health care which is flat out broken. But to avoid getting into a political sermon, I’ll concentrate on what we independents can do about it.” Looks like this might well be a site worth keeping an eye on – you never know when you might find yourself “going freelance”. ...Of Death The ever-dependable Randy Farmer has posted about WMDs in virtual worlds, looking back on mass-destructions of worlds past. “Probably the most legendary of my experiments was the Invisible Teleporting Grenade of Death. Nothing special compared to the offensive and defensive objects in Second Life today, but it caused quite a stir during beta because it was the first known deployment of a user-created Weapon of Mass Destruction in a 3D virtual world.”

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