The Old Game Bolo & Overdrawn Industry

Bolo is one of the most fun games for computer I have ever seen. It’s so awesome that I would kinda like to get a circle of about 10 people together for a game, but nobody even knows it exists… That’s because it’s ridiculously old for a game to actually play. I have looked into this tendency, and I have noticed that older games have done far more with less. Every N64 game ever made is about 10MB on disk, and even older arcade games like Spy Hunter don’t even break 1MB. Call me old fashioned, but those games are straight up more fun to play than newer, more intensive games. The reason for it is, I think, obvious. When more resources are dedicated to creating a game, which is necessary if it has more space for graphics, etc., then the risk involved for the people funding it is much greater. So they are less willing to let the developers do what they feel would make the game more fun, which kills the fun factor of the game for shiny dumb-blonde graphics. The older games had a hardware cap on how many resources they could have, so making what they had fun was the priority. That should still be the priority, despite the increased capability. When 3D graphics were just appearing, and memory was increasing just to the threshold where developers had some freedom, you see the best games made. Super Mario 64 looked great for its day, and it was simply fun to play. Why do they have a problem with that now?

Furthermore, the company is unwilling to produce lower-resource games intended to just be fun, because in an objective measure it looks like their game will suck. Everyone else will be rattling off how their new graphics engine is so many times more powerful and has new tricks x, y, and z, and runs on a gaming system with this much processor speed, etc. Let’s face it- we had fun playing games that were tiny and had virtually no memory. I’m not saying we should go back to that, I’m saying where did the old philosophy go that the sole objective is to make the game fun to play?

The same issue affects the movie industry. Modern movies cost so much to make that the actual purpose of the movie has become obscured. The objective is to entertain your audience in some way, whether by provoking their minds, by scaring them shitless, puzzling them with a mystery, wazamming with a thriller, or making them laugh or cry. A movie is more similar to a book than anything else, so why don’t we see the same variety? Producers want to make money, that’s why. They are, reasonably, afraid and paranoid about where they are putting their millions to finance movies. They only back movies they are reasonably sure will be successful. Here is where their perspective twists; they only judge what movies will be successful by what movies have been successful, and from there you get recycling movie syndrome where they all seem the same. That, or they are all sequels to successful movies or ripoffs on successful books. The worst part is that it never occurs to them that they could make a high-quality movie that entertains without spending hundreds of millions on it. You still need to advertise it to compete with other movies, but you don’t need Matrix-level special effects, or maybe you could settle for a talented unknown instead of Brad Pitt, who everyone recognizes and charges accordingly.

Compounding the issue, when you have an army on the site of filming it becomes more time-consuming to get everyone organized, and it costs tens of thousands of dollars per hour. So your money problems increase exponentially with the amount of money poured into the movie. They present such a problem that they actually interfere with the development of the movie- if anyone has witnessed sucky sequel syndrome, that is exactly how it happened. A wildcard movie crew strikes it rich, and then when they are flooded with funding and new manpower, new influences, and new angles from advertisers, merchandisers, and moochers, it turns their whole enterprise into a huge morass of wastefulness; they end up spending like crazy to film a shoddy product.

But those producers have the same issue the game designers do. If they don’t meet “the standard” for money spent, everyone will assume that their movie must therefore be of base quality.  Independent films are the extreme end of this, with shoestring budgets. Independent films, though a valiant effort, simply cannot compete with the box office producers. Sadly, $150 is not enough to produce a good movie (it may be soon, but that’s another post). One possibility is to create a system where a producer’s risk is minimized, but the crew’s budget depends on the quality of their product. If their particular crew or movie or whatever factor means that, above a certain funding level their quality begins to drop, the system will check their quality and cut their funding. Automatic balance at maximum quality-to-cost ratio- the free market at its best.

Here’s how you do it: Firstly, you open up a public pool of movies searching for funding, such as a website service. Anybody can join, free accounts for both moviemakers and would-be-producers. The moviemakers give information about themselves, maybe what movies they have made before, that sort of thing. The producers may choose to fund whoever they wish for as much as they like, giving them a stake in the movie’s profits like buying stocks in a company. If the movie never gets off the ground, they get nothing. However, if it turns into a major box-office hit they have a share of the profits. It’s a form of gambling, but with the added level that you can definitively determine which are going to be successful by watching their product.  Choosing to preemptively fund them is not for the shallow of pocket, but choosing to fund them somewhere in the middle of their production or finance their loans afterwards is also possible.  The people making the movies get a stipend based exactly on the appeal of their movie to the general public, and maintain or grow that stipend if they meet the public’s demand for progress and quality, and withdrawn if they don’t. People choosing to fund them get insider access, and even a voice in the decisions of the production- although it’s just their opinion along with whoever else decides to toss in their chips. The actual decisions will be the crew’s, who can choose to take into account the voice of those funding them, or not if it would cripple their movie.  The same system can be applied to most any production, including TV shows or other programs.


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