I had a bit of a revelation yesterday:
There I was driving home, thinking about my own games, and about the Movies, and what I could do to make them both big hits. I realised that automatically my mind was concentrating on effort, and hours put in, and the amount of code and features and polish in the games.
Then I realised this was a complete red herring. A game like Lemonade Tycoon or Dweep sells very well, not because of huge coding teams, long hours spent coding or doing artwork, but because of well thought out design.
I've decided that 90% of the playavility of a game is determined by design, nothing else. Even if I am well off base, and 30% of the game is based on design, why do big games companies have 1 or 2 designers and 20 artists and programmers?
Surely if design is that important, at least a third of the team should be concentrating purely on design and doing prototyping to test design concepts?
I think this is where a lot of games go wrong. IMHO, one hour of good well-thought out design equates to about 24 hours or mroe of art and code, in terms of 'value-for money'. After all, if a feature makes 1% difference to sales, but adds 10% to development time and cost, its pretty obvious that spending an additional hour testing and considering the usefulness of that feature could save your team a barrel of money.
The problem is, there is a mindset in the retail games sector, that if enough artists and coders put in enough late nights, the result will be a great game.
This is bullshit.
A great game is a great game at the design stage, the rest is just fluff.
I think I'd prefer to be a designer than a coder, it seems a far more challenging and vital role.