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One of the former writers and designers on renown games like Battlefield: Bad Company, Battlefield 4 and the highly respected shooter Payday 2, has talked about why he left the AAA gig behind to pursue the mid-budget tier in game design.
GamesIndustry.biz has a fascinating article detailing an interview they had with David Goldfarb, a pretty well known industry name within the AAA scene. He's currently working on a brand new game at a new studio co-founded with Ben Cousins called The Outsiders. And no, they're not working on the vaporware title The Outsider.
Goldfarb explains in simple terms exactly why he stepped away from the AAA arena – the section in games industry where publishers and investors are spending $100 through $500 million to design games – telling GI.biz...
“Here's the thing. I got burned out... I'm not a good fit for any of that [AAA] stuff. And the weird thing about it is because I'm not a good fit I wind up being valuable. But it also means I'm invariably going to come into conflict because I'm not a good fit. So that does get tiring. It's like do I want to do this for the rest of my life and fight these fights? I would say I definitely didn't want to do AAA after Battlefield 4. Then I really did have a pretty good time on Payday. I got to do a lot of cool stuff and the game was a success. Even though it wasn't AAA it was still big or bigger than maybe I felt I wanted to work on,"
Payday and Payday 2 released to massive success and are hallmark games in the shooter co-op genre.
In fact, Goldfarb believes that's actually what we need more of: big successes in the mid-tier, mid-budget arena. There are too many AAA titles all chasing the same thing with stringent working conditions and wild creativity mostly thrown completely out the window (especially when you compare the average $60 console release to stuff like Space Engineers, Stranded Deep, Mount & Blade or Jazzpunk).
According to Goldfarb...
"There's a lot of mid-tier games getting made right now that are succeeding on Steam, in that $3-$8 million range. If you look at the Paradox stuff, those guys are killing it. Those aren't like super expensive games but they're doing very well. There's room in the market to make those types of games that aren't crazy fidelity, 8,000 person teams but they have a style and quality and they're something you can return to over and over because of the gameplay. To me, I'm happy to do that."
Sounds like Minecraft or Medieval Engineers, or a dozen and one other mid-budget games that have been killing it on Steam. Wasteland 2 from inXile Entertainment or Pillars of Eternity from Obsidian also come to mind – crowd-funded titles on a moderate budget that focus on gameplay elements that gamers crave. We've recently seen how Harebrained Schemes managed to return to Kickstarter and accrue quite a bit in crowd-funding for a new outing to their successful Shadowrun Returns franchise.
Goldfarb goes on to explain that...
"I've made a lot of games that I'm proud of but I never made a game that I was compelled to make because it meant something to me... When you work on these huge titles, they're never yours. It doesn't matter how much you love the franchise. At least for me, that's what matters. It's not just about ownership, but it needs to be expressive of something that matters to me.”
He states that profitability is still something that's important to him, but being able to do something unique and different and meaningful is a major priority. As far as the future goes... his new title is going to be an RPG. The name and gameplay? No idea. We'll have to wait and see.
According to Goldfarb, he's hoping some mid-budget titles eventually sell crazy like Minecraft and become big enough to force AAA publishers to take some risks. If we haven't seen it by now, even though Minecraft is played by everyone the world around, I doubt we'll see it anytime soon unless there's some massive shift in the market to force publishers to adapt.
You can check out the full article over on GamesIndustry.biz.