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 Jimi Makes Games » Bob’s game - What went wrong and how can we learn from this?
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Bob’s game - What went wrong and how can we learn from this?

Posted by jimi on January 11th, 2009 filed in Game Comentary, Games Industry


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So a little while ago I posted up about Bob’s game, a game developed by one man over the course of five years.  I thought this was a project worthy of being published, if just for the amount of effort put into it.  I’ve thought about this project a fair bit since that post, but today I read the news of Bob giving up his protest and probably any possibility of his game ever being published.

Now I know this was probably not the best way for Bob to go about getting his game published, but any respect he had from the video game industry will have dried up with his last stunt.  By looking at the Kotaku post linked above, you can see a screen cap of his protest room smashed up.  Police were sent in to make sure Bob hadn’t killed himself.  I don’t know about you but I think this final stunt has done one of two things.

  1. Bob has committed Video Game Career suicide, or
  2. Bob has created a persona that a lot of companies will want to get on board……..the “Rock and Roll” developer if you will.  I can see John Romero lining up right now.
Either way, I think Bob has gone about this the wrong way, and we need to look at why Nintendo would not want to supply Bob with the required SDK.  
NOTE : This is all speculation on my part, but I think it’s a decent summation of what may have happened.
So Bob had been working on this game for 5 years.  He has to have used some form of SDK to get the game to a playable state.  This is either a homebrew SDK, or an illegal copy of the Nitro SDK (the official SDK that he has been trying to get legally through Nintendo).  He also would have required something to launch the code for testing on the DS.  All of the cards that can do that undermine Nintendo’s bottom line, as their primary use is for piracy.
Now I’m not accusing Bob of using an illegal SDK, or promoting piracy.  What I am pointing out is that this started off as homebrew, and while Bob may have had every intention of doing the right thing, he has to have used tools that are not official development tools.
Whats wrong with that?  Think about Nintendo’s side of the coin.  If Nintendo say to Bob, “That’s a great game Bob, here’s the Nitro SDK. It shouldn’t take you too long to get this onto official carts and out in stores” it sets a precedent that all developers are allowed to use tools of dubious legality to develop games, and allows developers to also keep Nintendo out of the development process until it’s absolutely necesserary.
I would assume there is some sort of fee involved in getting the Nitro SDK, and possibly ongoing licencing fees for studios to pay (if anyone is able to clarify this, post in the comments).  Having bypassed all of the ongoing fees, Nintendo would have lost out on a sizable chunk of change.  So looking at it from a business perspective, it is not in Nintendo’s best interests to try and help Bob’s game get published. 
As far as the most recent stunt is involved, it makes Bob look like an attention grabbing child.  Initially I thought using a Japanese form of protest was an intelligent way of getting on the same level as Nintendo.  It recognises their culture, shows you have understanding of said culture, and is a non-threatening form of protest.  He ruined it by allowing himself to get angry, and then vocalising his anger through his website.  This contradicts what he was trying to achieve through non-threatening protest.  Reading through the posts he made on his site during the protest, it looks like the solitary confinement started to get to him.  You can see them escalate in anger over time.  I guess that’s why they use solitary confinement as a punishment in prisons.  This is an excerpt from his “breaking point” post.
In fact, I… Ugh… My head… This pain! Why won’t this pain go away?! DON’T YOU DARE IGNORE ME, NINTENDO.  I DEMAND THE SDK- AND IF YOU DO NOT OBEY I WILL TAKE MY REVENGE, YOU MISERABLE FOOLS!  I WILL RUN YOUR PATHETIC LITTLE COMPANY INTO THE GROUND AND SPIT ON THE SMOLDERING REMAINS!  I WILL CRUSH YOU INTO DUST AND FLUSH AWAY THE ASHES LIKE ANY OTHER FILTH! ROTTING, PUTRID SEWAGETHAT’S ALL YOU ARE!
He then half recants this outburst in a post the next day…
Oh, about yesterday’s post. I’m just kidding around. I mean, look at what I said.  It’s obviously a joke!  I wouldn’t spit on the smoldering remains.  That would put them out!
At this point I have lost the will to defend Bob.  He is his own worst enemy.  Alienating Nintendo in this way won’t help him in any way shape or form.
I still have a lot of respect for what Bob has achieved.  Creating a game of this magnitude on your own is an incredible feat.  I have worked on student projects, the longest being 15 weeks.  I got incredibly invested in our project, and when things didn’t go right I did take it personally.  What a lot of people don’t understand is that these projects can really become a part of you, and if that project is threatened then it directly undermines you as a person.  I can only begin to imagine how invested Bob is after 5 years.
There’s some other points that I’m sure were running through Nintendo’s head, like
  • Has the game been quality/focus tested by external sources?
  • Is the game going to be fun for anyone except Bob? (It is very easy to lose sight of what other people might think of an idea.)
  • How good can a game made by someone learning along the way be? 
Like I said before, I still have respect for Bob’s efforts, and I would hate for this game to never see a proper release.  I think he went about a lot of things the wrong way, and I hope that other would be small developers learn from the mistakes he has made.

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One Response to “Bob’s game - What went wrong and how can we learn from this?”

  1. John Lynch Says:

    Excellent write up on the whole, and I find myself in agreement. Bob’s game is a testament to the effort a single hand can bear to bring on a project, but his approach to lobbying Nintendo for the SDK was more media stuntish then, say, a petition, or a serious moderated discussion on the topic.

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