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Eugeneology: An Interview with Eugene Jarvis


May 18, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 7 Next
 

 

How do you sell new games to reluctant arcade operators?

EJ: It's a tough racket. These days, it's more of a replacement business. In the golden era of the '80s, you were just filling up locations with games, and it was much easier to sell. Now, your new game has to make a lot more money than the game it's replacing. They've already paid for the old game many years ago, and they're looking at putting out a lot of money to buy a new game. They're worried about whether the game will bomb a year or two years from now, or even six months from now. If they lay out seven or eight thousand dollars for a new game, and the thing bombs, [that's a problem]. They're not a charity. They want to make money!

It's a tough sell, and you really have to pack as much as you can in the game. We just issued a new game in our The Fast and the Furious series called The Fast and the Furious Drift. We put 18 tracks in this game. There must be six or seven shortcuts on each track. The amount of material there is just huge, and you do that to make the game last a long time on location. If the players get tired of your game in three or four months, nobody's going to buy your game. There's a huge push to pack more things in there. It's a little bit similar to the death spiral in console games, where you have to throw in more and more material, and the budgets haven't been increasing to pay for all that material. The market has not really been growing that much. The market is like stealing food from somebody else.

So budgets are actually going up still?

EJ: Absolutely. The problem is that there is no market for a low budget game. You can make one, but people will just laugh at it. They won't play it.

Do graphics actually matter in arcade games now? It may matter from the operator's side, but does it matter from the player's side?

EJ: Oh, absolutely. In video games, if it's about gameplay, it's about graphics. One without the other is going to be a failure. If you have the best graphics in the world but no gameplay, it's going to fail. If you have the best gameplay but everything is a square box, nobody is going to play it. It's a marriage of the two. You try to do the best you can within your budget to make the game look as good as you can. It's hard to have the same graphic quality of a $30 million game.

If you look at our games versus the Need for Speed series, their graphics are probably better, but they only have one car on the screen for most of the game. We tweak our game. We may not put as much power on the backgrounds, but we tweak our game so we can have nine or ten cars on-screen racing. You just get a lot more gameplay out of it. In some ways, the console games can be more of a solitary experience.

One car looks really great, but when two cars come on the screen, the framerate drops. It's such a rare occurence that players don't care as much. But in an arcade game, you've only got two or three minutes to impress, and if you start dropping your framerate to 20 or 30, nobody's going to want to play your game again. It's got to be very responsive. We're biased more toward gameplay and more action on the screen, as opposed to dazzling with backgrounds.


The Fast and the Furious (Photo Credit: http://wayoftherodent.com)

What architecture are you using?

EJ: We use PCs, mostly. The PC is just such a powerful machine, especially with today's graphics cards. We also have some custom ports to drive the IO, like the force feedback steering, to manage the lean of the motorcycle. We have some custom boards for that sort of thing. For graphics, though, you really can't beat a state-of-the-art PC system.

I thought you were using Atomiswave at one point. Is that true?

EJ: No, never. Sega had used that for many years, as did Sammy. It's a Dreamcast-derived hardware. There was also the Chihiro system, and before that there was the PlayStation-based System 22. The PC is a much more flexible platform. If you need more power, you just throw on a better graphics board.

Have you looked at Taito's Type X? That's basically a PC.

EJ: Yeah, it's officially a PC, so it's just kind of a name. I think the Lindbergh is just a PC with a fancy name. Everyone has to have a fancy name, but you pull off the cover and look inside and it's just a freaking PC!

Do you feel like the age of arcades is returning?

EJ: I would have to disagree. Being in the trenches myself, I'd have to say that it's like cannibalism. You're just fighting to survive for the next day. It's a fun business for game designers because you can work on a smaller team and have more freedom and have more impact on a game, but it's a very rough market. The toughest thing is that when you're selling a CD for an Xbox for $70, that CD costs about 47 cents. There's some profit margin there.

When you're making an arcade game, you're selling it for $5,000-$6,000, and the thing might cost 80% of that [to produce]. Your profit margin is a much lower percentage, and from that you have to pay all of your costs and everything. It's a tough business. You really have to know what you're doing and it's a constant struggle between creating a game that can appeal to a player while working with a low budget, so you really can't make mistakes.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 7 Next

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