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Blogged Out: Manifesto, Ludium, Outsourcing

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, we visit G...
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, we visit Greg Costikyan as he plans his game company, Edward Castronova and friends as they return from their Ludium, and Jurie Hornemann on outsourcing. - One of the most interesting projects currently being chronicled online is that of Greg Costikyan, who has recently announced his intention to launch a platform for independent game retail in the form of Manifesto Games. Right now the project, which stems from Costikyan's beliefs regarding the current nature of the industry, is in the initial stages and Costikyan has blogged his thoughts about the challenges his fledgling company faces in setting up a website that will support community, and therefore sales. He commented with regard to the idea: "Without going off into a lot of theoretical discussion along the lines are "markets are conversations" or "Web 2.0 depends on harnessing user-created value" (both of which are true and inform our efforts), the fact is that the value we can potentially offer to developers and publishers is the creation of a community of people who might not otherwise be exposed to their games. In other words, we need to be able to say to people who provide us with games, "We will not cannibalize your sales, instead we will offer incremental sales you would not otherwise get"--and that justifies the fact that we ask for a piece of the retail sale." - Meanwhile, there's been talk in the MMO community about game academic Edward Castronova's Ludium event in Bloomington, Indiana. "What's a Ludium? It's an academic conference built as a live-action game. At this one, a mixed group of academics, MMORPG designers, and experts with funding contacts will compete to come up with the best ways to use avatars in university research." Castronova adds his post-Ludium thoughts over on Terranova, while one of the attendees, Wolfpack Studios' Damion Schbert supplies his own thoughts on being a participant in the event. The Ludium was intended to bring gaming professionals and academics together in a cross pollination of ideas and an attempt to figure out the best ways to use MMO concepts in academic research. Did it work? Well, Schubert sounds positive but, like him, we'll have to wait for the comprehensive post-event report. - We finish this week with some more thoughtful blogging from Jurie Horneman with a new weblog entry on outsourcing in game development. It's a subject that is especially topical, as both Wideload's Stubbs The Zombie and American McGee's Bad Day L.A. have emerged as notable examples of titles have either outsourced or used alternative development processes to some extent, according to Horneman. "Outsourcing can lead to a more organic development ecosystem. It can make everyone more efficient - in theory, it solves the 'what is my army of content creators going to do while we're doing pre-production or finishing up a game?' question. They just work on another game, for another company. This was an oft-discussed issue at Kalisto, a previous employer. One idea was to use a kind of internal outsourcing system inside a big studio (Kalisto's Bordeaux studio had 250 people working there). You would have art teams moving from game project to game project, rather than staying on for the duration of the project. It's a logical extension of the matrix structure, in a way." With specialized and complementary 'squads' of artists working together over long periods and on many different games, you might also see an improvement in their teamwork and overall productivity - a hot concept in the game development world right now. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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