Updated: Thursday, 20 Nov 2008, 10:50 PM CST
Published : Thursday, 20 Nov 2008, 7:00 PM CST
AUSTIN (KXAN) - At Electronic Art's Bioware division, it is the top secret new Star Wars game, which cannot be shown on video. More than 100 people, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, will work on this game and nothing else for perhaps four years before it gets to the market.
"Basically, I loved playing games as a kid," said Richard Vogel, Bioware studio director. "I had my little Atari, and I loved playing those games. Did computer science in college, and it drew me to the medium."
"It was challenging work," said Gordon Walton. "I didn't want to have a real job. Later, it became more respectable and now it's a real job." So real of a job that now both the University of Texas at Austin and Austin Community College have accredited degree programs in game design. Also, they are not exactly scraping the barrel to make ends meet either. The average salary of a game designer in the U.S. is $80,000.
They labor in splendid isolation and wrangle in creative groups. "You have to have confidence in your vision, but you have to have enough humility to know when you're wrong and to accept other people's ideas," said James Ohlen, Bioware creative director. "That's a big key to being successful."
There is conception, then art and design, animation and programming. Several years later, you have a video game. "Oh, it's awesome," said Ohlen. "When it's done, you get to go in the store and hear people talking about it and you see the person with the product in their hand and they buy it. That's pretty cool."
You wonder, are they making the game for themselves or for consumers? "I have to love what I'm doing so it has to be for me," said Ohlen. "I'm going to have to enjoy the game I'm building, but at the same time, I do have to take into account feedback from outside."
Constant market testing goes on with these multiple player, online high-tech games, but there are other types of games. If you find the high-end games too complicated, too violent, too provocative, there is a growing market called Casual Games.
At the Pogo division, Mike Wabschall heads a dozen man team, cranking out a new Casual Game every six months or so. Their majority market is over 35 years old. "As we mature, we enjoy playing games with our families," said Wabschall. "We also have a shorter amount of time to spend on those types of games so we like to find games that are instant gratification, easy to play."
The immediate future still rests with the complex, multiple-player online games, limited only by the imagination of their makers.