“Clean Slate” vs. “Reactive” Creativity

A couple of weeks ago I started out writing about my habit of getting obsessed with games I’d never think about making, which last week led to some thoughts on different kinds of creativity and how my kind of creativity starts with frustration about…something, anything, but mostly about games styles that I think could be improved so easily if developers weren’t so committed to convention. (You know what I’m talking about — games that seem driven by “Do what we’ve always done because it works…and we can always add prettier pictures!” That kind of thinking just frustrates the heck out of me.) And that led to the realization that frustration gets me thinking, which (paradoxically) keeps me playing and (ultimately) gets me reacting. Next thing I know, I’m waking up at 4 in the morning, scribbling furiously on a notepad and before you know it, there’s a game I have to make.

Those 4 a.m. creative bursts (which often drive teams crazy — “Oh, no, Warren didn’t sleep last night… we’re all in trouble!”)… these reactions to frustration, stand in stark contrast with what I’ve started thinking of as “clean slate” creativity. And, while some of the folks who emailed me or posted comments here pointed out that everything is a reaction to something (nothing new under the sun…), I do think there’s a difference between my approach and that of other folks. I say that because I’ve been lucky enough to work with plenty of “clean slate” guys — Allen Varney…Greg Costikyan…David “Zeb” Cook in tabletop games… Richard Garriott, Chris Roberts and Doug Church in electronic games… (And anyone want to quibble with me throwing Will Wright’s name into the “clean slate” bucket? We haven’t worked together, but I think he’s a safe addition to the group!)

These guys routinely come to the table with a vision of something entirely new, a game unlike anything anyone’s ever seen. Half the time they sound nuts when they describe what they want to do, even to me. The other half of the time, I can’t wait to play their games and immediately start looking for ways I can help to enable and empower them — when you run up against something Totally New, you kind of have to help realize the idea, don’t you?

In contrast, while I have plenty of ideas, I don’t often find myself with all-new ideas like that — as I said, I’m more a reactive kind of guy. I play a game or read a book or watch a movie; I get frustrated at how lame it is or how conventional or how easily it could be improved. I see ways to add an element here or bring in an element from another kind of game. My pitch slides always (ALWAYS) include a couple of slides along the lines of “Take the best of games like X, throw in a bit of what makes Deus Ex or Ultima great and you’ve got Warren’s New Game Idea.”

In other words, I look for ways to take things that frustrate me and fix them.

Sometimes, my frustration is with a game’s fiction, sometimes it’s with gameplay, sometimes it’s with an underutilized feature, sometimes it’s with an entire genre I think needs a kick in the rear. But, like the princess who can’t sleep because of the pea under her mattress, I can’t rest when I see something dumb in a game.

For example, as much as I love fantasy, and loved the world of Ultima, I couldn’t shake the feeling back in 1989 that fantasy was limiting us–commercially and creatively–and a more realistic, historical approach would help us tell cooler stories while reaching a larger, more diverse audience. “Why the heck don’t you use that great Ultima VI engine for something more broadly appealing, Richard?” I thought. The result was Martian Dreams — an Ultima-style historical science fiction adventure set in the Victorian era. (Okay, so I was wrong about reaching a larger audience with a non-fantasy Ultima title, but the spark that started the project was definitely frustration, not a desire to create a clean slate design…)

A couple of years later, Ultima VII came out — a perfectly fine game but one that didn’t seem “epic enough” to me (though, in retrospect, that’s clearly absurd!). From a technical and graphics perspective it was groundbreaking, but the player experience seemed old ate. The story and playstyle could have been better. Out of that frustration came Serpent Isle. (There was also the fact that Britannia was totally Richard Garriott’s world and anyone else trying to explore interesting ideas there had to face the inevitability of those dreaded words, “That would never happen in Britannia” or “Iolo would never do that!” Serpent Isle was born of frustration with that, too — I told the team we were going to create our own world, within the Ultima universe, so Richard could never say that stuff to us! But that’s a story for another time…)

Wings of Glory was sparked by a plane ride I took with Chris Roberts while he was working on Strike Commander. Here was his team of supergeniuses, creating the most amazing flight sim engine to date — best looking models, best looking terrain, a 3D cockpit you could actually look around to check your surroundings — and all he could think of to do with it was a jet fighter game?! That seemed ludicrous to me. Jets don’t really dogfight. They fight from a distance, guaranteeing you’d be too far from Strike Commander’s beautiful 3D models to see them… flying too high to marvel at the incredibly detailed terrain… relying on radar to spot far-off enemies, ensuring you’d never have any reason to look around the 3D cockpit. It was nuts. I was frustrated. From that moment, I had to do a WWI flight sim, so you could get up close and personal with beautiful slow-moving planes, fly low to the ground and marvel at the terrain, swivel around the cockpit straining to catch a glimpse of an enemy before he got the drop on you.

Deus Ex was completely a response to Thief. I remember sitting in meeting after meeting with the team, arguing that it was a bad idea to de-power players to force them to sneak and avoid combat. “What if I’m not good enough to sneak past a guard? Or I just want to bash a guy over the head once in a while?” I lost all those battles (and, the way Thief turned out, I was clearly in the wrong — the game rocked). However, those lost battles led me to a place where all I could think was, “I’ll show those guys. I’ll make a game where you can sneak, fight or talk your way past any problem.” The next four years were just details — the game was born out of intense frustration with Thief.

More recently, working with John Woo on the Ninja Gold movie concept, I was driven by frustration one two levels: First, the Hollywood/Game collaboration just never seemed to work right and, second, ninjas are always treated so stupidly, in such a juvenile manner. I saw an opportunity to address both of those problems. (That’s really about all I can say about this, other than to warn people not to draw too many conclusions about JPS’s activities from the published reports.)

This bringings us back to the here and now. If you recall , this all started with Paper Mario on the Wii (again, a fun enough game I’m not dissing!…) Paper Mario fed right into my perpetual frustration with games that lead players around by the nose, offering false choices, when they offer choices at all, offering players the opportunity to solve puzzles (exactly the same way every other player solves exactly the same puzzles). In other words, it’s a game that allows players to pass some time but not much more. And that drives me nuts. In fact, much as I love Mario and Zelda and platform action/adventure games and all, there’s not much that frustrates me more these days. So, of course, I’ve been playing them obsessively and (surprise!) we’re working on a concept at JPS that will help address my frustration — a concept driven, as always, by a weird combination of love and frustration for specific games.

I’m hugely motivated these days by my love of and frustration with Zelda, Mario and other games of that ilk. Clearly, part of the appeal of these games is the chance to immerse oneself in familiar worlds and familiar gameplay. And there’s something soothing about knowing there’s One Right Way to do things. But as appealing as that idea is, there’s danger in too much reverence for the past, and these games seem so mired in their history, so married to convention they kind of make me mad. Prettier pictures won’t maintain sales forever. Someone has to offer a different take on action/adventure gameplay — why not us here at JPS? The frustration is definitely building! And that means there’s a game coming… Man, I can’t wait to talk more about this, but I better stop before I get myself in trouble.

Back in the world of generalization…

Whatever the frustration that drives my creative urges, it’s always screaming frustration of some kind that drives me. Everything I do is a response to something, a dialogue with someone or something (even if the other party doesn’t know a thing about it!). For me, art requires something to push against — maybe even something I want to destroy. (I really did want to shame other developers with Deus Ex, to ensure they could never make a straight shooter or simple save-the-world RPG again without feeling a little embarrassed about it. You can decide if we succeeded or not…)

I need an “I’ll show them!” moment before I can muster the energy to devote three years of my life to something. As my lovely wife Caroline will gladly inform you, I go out of my way to find things to get worked up about, things to get mad about, things I think are stupid in games — things to react to. For me, right now, I’m reacting to stupid ninjas and conventional platformers, just as I reacted ten years ago (jeez, has it been that long?!) to conventional shooters (and “sneakers”), back in the days of Deus Ex.

This all leaves one big question, of course — how do I reconcile the JPS core value of “Innovation” (see my blog post from June 9, 2007) with the reactive/editorial approach to design discussed here? That, and a bit about what comes after the frustration, is the topic for next week. For now, though, I turn this over to you folks, ending with two questions:

First, I see other “reactive” designs out there (though I won’t name them, for fear of offending friends and colleagues who may not find the idea of being reactive, rather than more conventionally creative, all that appealing!). But that doesn’t mean you folks can’t name names. So what reactive designs do you see out there?

Second, what game types/styles/categories bug you, frustrate you, make you want to tear your hair out — which genres, in other words, do you think are ready for reaction and reinvention?

20 Responses to ““Clean Slate” vs. “Reactive” Creativity”

  1. pinstripe Says:

    Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) was clearly a concept to show that games shouldn’t follow a strict template, instead designers should implement gameplay mechanics/ideas according to their vision, not genre framework. David Cage clearly was sick of the backwards driven thinking of what is expected from an adventure game and so on, with all that frustration he eventually had the courage to make something like Fahrenheit.

    Regarding to the second question about styles/categories I think that SciFi, that means the effect of technology on society is non existent in today’s games (Shock2 and Deus Ex notably exceptions). What I mean is that I’m sick of all those backward-driven space operas, always that desire to evoke the “Star Wars” feeling, or other big 70s, 80s SciFi classics.
    Look at Mass Effect. Bioware can create life-like humans, but instead of using that killer-tech for something more interesting, more contemporary and reallife-related, we get Turians, Potatoians and other goofy clowns. A lot of wasted potential. Why do people always think backward, not forward?

  2. zeroaltitude Says:

    “when you run up against something Totally New, you kind of have to help realize the idea, don’t you?”

    This is most certainly the quality that separates the critics and the creators. It can be broken down into a pretty simple “half-full/half-empty” concept. Either you say “That wouldn’t work because of this, this and that” or you say “I’ve got to figure out how to make this work with this, this and that”.

    The idea critics are certainly useful to the process. They can spot flaws in pretty much any plan or implementation, and it saves you from running into things unexpectedly. But the creators are the ones that see possible holes and dive in to plug the holes themselves.

    The only thing that jumps out at me as a real frustration point, without any long reflection on the topic, is timed levels. This transcends genre, starting in platformers (I was reminded when my girlfriend was playing Sonic the other day and railed on about how much she hates the levels where the water is constantly rising). First person shooters and action games tend to have that “lava is coming down the mountain/beat the avalanche/missile is about to launch” levels, and EVERY real-time strategy game has that “counter attack will begin in 5:00 minutes” level as well as the “Defend the base for 30 minutes” level. I don’t mind the latter as much, but every thing else is forcing a particular gameplay style (read: Rushed) on the player. If you need to throw a time limit on top of everything else to create or heighten tension, SOMETHING ELSE IS WRONG.

  3. crasht Says:

    The folks at Bungie and Valve are clearly of the reactive school. I believe the latter’s Gabe Newell has even been quoted as saying the design for Half Life was born from a frustrating with the state of FPS games at the time. Ken Levine at Irrational has also stated that he’s frustrated with corridor-shooters and that he wants players to experience the “deeper” gameplay of Bioshock and because of it demand similar depth from action games in the future. Going back a few years both Planescape Torment and Fallout were created as a reaction to the state of the industry at the time, the entire notion of save-die-reload gameplay on one hand and the Dungeons & Dragons inspired fantasy settings of most RPGs on the other.

    There are also companies like Blizzard, who don’t seem to follow a strictly reactive or tabula-rasa approach to design. World Of Warcraft wasn’t really intended to solve the perceived problems of MMORPGs but just to take all the best elements and implement them in as effective and polished a manner as possible.

    Interesting thing about Will Wright is that the concept that became Sim City was born as an Editor for his first game Raid On Bungeling Bay. He found he had more fun with the editor than the game. So to some extent even the “poster child” for innovative gameplay only started down his own path because of a frustrating experience with his own game.

    As for the second question, I’ve found myself increasingly irritated by the way in which quests are handled in most RPGs. Either a complete stranger approaches you and asks for your help or you approach a complete stranger and ask if they need any help; or if you need information the only person who can provide you with it requires that you do X number of tasks for them before they’ll tell you want you want to hear. Something I loved about the classic Midwinter II – Flames of Freedom, was that there were usually multiple ways to get specific characters to join your cause or provide information for you, reasoning, threatening, bribery, seduction as well as the more traditional “run errand”. The effectiveness of each method was based on both your character’s abilities in specific areas and the mentality of the NPC themselves. It’s a pretty basic system technology wise but it’s surprising that few games have attempted to provide that range of choices, usually resorting to the aforementioned “run errand” or some form of threat or bribery.

    Also on an almost post-modern level the problems of bringing external information to a game frustrate me; or more accurately the traditional solutions to the problem frustrate me. A good example are the security codes in something like Deus Ex, it’s possible to memorise the codes to specific doors and so bypass the need to actually find out the codes “in-game”. On the other hand having the correct code not work until you find it is a rather in-elegant solution. This also extends to the more story-centric titles and the problem of the player character having more knowledge of the world that the player themselves, and again the classic amnesia solution feels both clichéd and artificial.

  4. ninjonics Says:

    @zeroaltitude: I disagree with timed levels thing, I think it can add a kind of tension not achievable in any other way. For example, the Halo level “The Maw” has you escaping from the Pillar of Autumn before it explodes (after you yourself deliberately initiate the imminent explosion), and you get a count-down on screen. This changes the “careful room clearing” gameplay you’ve previously seen to a completely different objective of just making it through hundreds of enemies as fast as possible, and I think makes for a great ending. So I think it can work very well in the right places.

    (Somewhat related to this, I always thought the escape from the Wall Cloud ship in Deus Ex was a bit strange, since the thing would continue to explode and shake but never actually sink, no matter how long you took to escape – which kinda made the constant exploding seem a bit silly once I realised this…and I am a big fan of Deus Ex 🙂 )

    The implementation of Jedi-oriented Star Wars games is very frustrating to me, with every one ultimately being a simple hack & slash light-saber mechanic with kind of bolted-on force powers*. It was acceptable in Dark Forces II (I think this was the first saber one?), but the later Jedi Knight games took it really no further except for some added animations and better graphics – though they were highly polished, not to discredit Raven.

    Saber battles are meant to be epic displays of skill, awareness and focus (with appropriate additions of rage / passiveness, depending on your preference :-)). I wish someone found a way to implement this as an actual deep skill game, more like a game of chess than an FPS with swords, but still with the feeling of intensity…I think Fahrenheight / Indigo Prophecy was maybe halfway to this…but I’m also not sure if it’s really possible to do it, probably why I don’t design games 😀

    *Obviously KOTOR is in a different class, and a great RPG, but I’m also always put off by dice-roll type stuff as used in KOTOR…guess I’m hard to please 😛

  5. Narcissism Incorporated » Puzzles vs. Problems Says:

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  6. niroz Says:

    Well to me, Supreme Commander seemed to be a reaction to the run of the mill RTS games that are always turning up. I mean the zoom, the massive scope of the battles, not to mention the story, all seem to be a reaction.

    As for genre’s that need a reaction, I’d say the ‘open sandpit’ type games, for which GTA is the flagship franchise. It annoys me that such an open, immersing world is used to create a gangster sim. Imagine if they had done that with System Shock 2, Far Cry or even Half Life 2.

  7. paganator Says:

    I have to say you’re very lucky to be able to say “stealth games frustrate me, so I’ll make a better one.” I’m totally jealous 😉 As another game designer, I’m in the situation of many designers: I don’t choose what I work on, nor large parts of its design.

    For many (most?) designers, new projects come something like this: “We’ve got this license we need a game for. The budget and deadline are really tight, so you’ll have to do something close to the last game we did, using the same technology. Here’s a list of features the publisher wants to see in the game.”

    Of course I’d love to work on creative and original stuff — I’ve got plenty of ideas and the skill to pull them off — but unless you’ve worked on successful original games, publishers won’t let you work on original projects. Catch-22. But enough ranting, consider yourself lucky that you can choose the projects you work on 🙂

  8. inspiredbydesign Says:

    Making games out of frustration ehh? Interesting I thought you where making games using that clean-state of mind you talked about and added elements form other places. But now I can see you do make games out of frustration, for example I half hoped you would play as JC Denton in Deus Ex : IW but now I see that it would have been a bit too… redundant for you, because lots of other Game Developers use that redundancy’s too in there games. (MGS to think of one) Seeing it that way I can understand why a lot of your games seem vary Un-redundant to there predecessors. Still it would have been “more” fun in my opinion if you sort of just made a “look how much better this game system is then your’s” for Deus Ex 2. (but I’m not here to get into that rant)

    To your first question, FEAR made me think, “wow theres a hole lot more this game could have.” It triggered that System Shock 2 kinda feel, but had no replay value. System Shock 2 was scary because you never knew what was around the corner. FEAR, you just sort of learned to ignore the ‘try to be scary’ parts.

    It seems to me Developer’s don’t really know what kind of media they have. Righting a book you can look at other Great Books. Making a movie, look at great movies. But Video games? There are not really all that many great video games out there. I can’t really think of a game that I can say “this game changed my life”, like you can a book or movie.

    Deus Ex I would say is the only real exaction out their I can think of. Their isn’t a way to wright a book or make a movie where the reader or viewer fails of save his brothers life. You can only do that in a game. That moment when I went up to Paul’s dead body was a moment of pure video game genus. I had stopped trying to disobey to rules of the game, and started just playing the game. But I was so used to linear games I never thought of disobeying my brothers orders, it never came to mind. But on the reply I knew how non-linear Deus Ex really was so I disobeyed Paul and saved his life. If Deus Ex did change my life, I can say I’m always looking for that spot where I chose my fate. Thats the kind of media developers are working with and I say it gets me frustrated too that all too few developers know it.

    With what I have said my answer to your second question would be All of them right now.

  9. jonaswaever Says:

    I think there are more games that do what Deus Ex did so well, which is to tell a linear story with a few important modifications according to specific choices presented to the player and set in more or less nonlinear locations. KOTOR is an example Warren himself often brings up, and Neverwinter Nights 2 or Jade Empire are other decent examples. That said, there aren’t many of them. I’d like more games choosing the Deus Ex approach, but I think there’s room for different types of storytelling in games.

    Many games attempt to simply let a narrative emerge from a system of rules and mechanics, which is sometimes successful and sometimes not, but generally depends on the cooperation of the player. STALKER is such a game, and it succeeded to a limited extent – at least within the frames of what it set out to do. Hitman 4 is an example of a game with a pretty linear and predefined story, but which operates with completely open and extremely flexible missions that create those by developers much sought-after “How did you complete this mission?” conversations like no other game I’ve ever played.

  10. jbragg Says:

    I think it’s hard to know what games are reactive without seeing behind the scene but I don’t get the feeling many are. Right now, to me, the industry looks a lot like music and movies. There are things the executives expect from a type of product and that’s what they will fund and it’s easer (and cheaper) to hype a mediocre game with killer graphics then make a Deus Ex. The way I think of it is, there are true musicians and manufactured bands, and far more of the latter than the former. The same holds for gaming.

    As for gaming frustration: At the moment two genera bug me. MMORPGs and FPSs. Don’t get me wrong, I love them both but man do they make me crazy. MMORPGs are insane about game balancing; to the point that they have balanced the players’ choices into irrelevance. Their answer to the question of how to maintain game balance is to make every class and every advancement option the same. There are billions of better ways to do this than total equality. The approach of normalizing all choice out of existence is mind numbingly unoriginal and apparently contagious. FPSs are trying all kinds of stuff (psi-ops, Prey,…) but doing it so badly. It’s like everyone wants to come up with the next Halo that they take any idea (good or bad) and rush it out without even asking the question: “What is even remotely fun about this game”. I try new FPSs, usually get frustrated with how awful they are and go right back to playing team fortress (yes, quake 1 team fortress is more fun than most of the new fps’s, just think about that for a sec..) I’m also a bit bugged about the story. I know “most people just wana shoot stuff and the story is just there to justify the game play” but I have to say, it shows! Dues Ex, KOTOR, and FF are not just great games because of their game play and replay value but because their stories are really great. It also bugs me that with all the things going on in the world (bioengineering, nanotech, globalization, climate change, secret wars, hegemonic power, should I go on?) which, with the tiniest imaginative thought, could be molded into game stories that, like many good novels, spark the imagination because they are things that ‘could be’ (Tom Clancy, Neal Stephenson?) but instead games have bland stories about a troll who collects rib bones. Ok, that turned into a rant.. sorry but u did ask about frustration 🙂

  11. exmachinax Says:

    Sorry for any grammar problem, I’m still getting used to wirte in english 🙂

    The story is really what hooks me to a game. A well elaborated plot and dialogue, and well elaborate characters as well often is what makes me play a game. As much as the “always first person camera” with a speechless player avatar was a very good idea for Half-Life 1, it annoys me someties in HL2, since there is a story going on, things happening, people saying things and I feel something about every person on the screen (Dr. Breen, Alyx, Barney, whatever) EXCEPT for the character I’m playing! I don’t feel connected in any way to a character w/ no personality, and, IMO, it hurts a bit HL2.

    Speaking about characters, it brings me to mind the Legacy of Kain series. Divided between two protagonists, both with strong motivations and personalities, this series got me hooked like almost no other game series. The plot itself takes 5 games to finish, maybe a bit too much, but by the end, it is a story so powerfull, so well laid out and written that even minor problems are negligible, because, if you ask me, is one of the best and most interesting stories ever, on any medium. The first Soul Reaver is a shining example of how a good dialogue in a game should be: concise and relevant.

    I don’t like too much “open ended” games, because there’s nothing that drives me on, nothing that makes me care for its world. I constrat to it, Deus Ex is a truly great game because it has a strong story with some minor points changeable (Paul dies or no) and allows the player to find his own gameplay during each mission, without making the game like Oblivion (wandering around for hours and hours just to find the same caverns over and again) and wihtout making it too straightforward, allowing room for the player creativity.

    And to end this long post, I don’t think every story should be in some way connected to reality, or that every story should be grounded on fantasy worlds full of dragons; there’s room for all kinfs of stories, as long as they are well told and well presented.

  12. monkeyenterprises Says:

    I think it’s a developer’s duty to increase audience literacy. As much as it sucks, new, innovative stuff scares people off.

    I mean, back in the good old Grecian days, they were creating masterpieces like Oedipus Rex and The Iliad. However, only an absurdly small portion of the population was literate enough, in terms of culture to get what was so cool about these works of art.

    Now, art as seen in films and television and games, is much more middle class centric. It isn’t just old rich white men who appreciate these things anymore, which is cool and good. This has finally arrived from the long struggle of the entire population becoming for literate, thanks to the printing press, standardized education, the internet, etc.

    As a developer, you have to work within the realm of literacy of the demographic you have to make. So, why its cool to innovative relentlessly, you always need to make sure people are becoming more aware of what you’re doing, and don’t feel its out of reach.

    That being said, and audiences everywhere need to grow a pair and stop seeing shitty half-baked summer blockbusters. Come on, people.

  13. mannpower Says:

    Games that celebrate mediocrity for the firth half of the experience annoy me. You know the sort; average joe thrown into extraordinary circumstances, who miraculously becomes a badass. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Halflife and games of that ilk, but not because I had to be Gordon Freeman – miracle nerd. That was a major thorn in my suspension of disbelief for both games.

    I play games to escape. I’m already a normal human being; I want to go somewhere where I’m special, where I have some acute advantage over anyone else – I need to feel like the only one who can accomplish the tasks given to me; not just being in the right place at the right time. Deus Ex is a great example of this – the player character is super-human, who learns things no one was meant to know.

    BioShock, for all its polish, falls into the gap of thrusting you into the cranium of a character you didn’t choose, and whom you can’t define outside of the plasmids (augmentations) you choose. The man picks up a gun for the first time, and all of the sudden he’s John Rambo. Humble beginnings, to instant Cimmerian berserker.

    I’m a sucker for character customization – the more control you give me over how my character looks and what I can make him do, the happier I am. Put on top of that the narrative emphasis on your singular importance as the protagonist, and you’ve already appealed to my ego – and thusly, made me feel important to this world. I think it is for this reason that MMORPG’s lose me so quickly; player equality. Captain Grammerless Dullard may have half the moral and intellectual fabric as me in real life, but he happens to be 20 levels above me, and therefore a greater ‘hero.’ I like to feel like I am actually Role-Playing. I want to feel like The Avatar – my choices and ethics should count as much as my prowess. My hand-eye coordination should be the deciding factor in a battle, not my numeric stats based solely on how much of my valuable time I’ve poured into a grinding session. The game should react to me, and mold the strengths of my character dynamically based on how I play, not the skill points I put into something I think I need – but never use.

    I’m just rambling at this point, I guess – but my point is this; I play a game to feel more important than I do in real life. That being said, I want to feel loved or hated – but most of all, unique, powerful, and the fulcrum upon which the world thrives or fails.

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  17. indiexperiences Says:

    As a student enrolled at the Guildhall at SMU, I recently had the opportunity to present my senior capstone game to a high-powered individual who makes decisions for his company, of which I will not mention here. He looked at my game and the first question he asked was “who are you making this game for?” I stopped, and he proceeded to ask, “Where did you get this idea from?” As I started to explain he interrupted and proceeded to state that he was a “hoar” and would repackage and steal any game design idea as many times as he needed as long as the market continued to support the design.

    As a student, I do not have to worry about selling my game; rather I am making it for myself with ideas that are my own. Sure, there might be games that have a slightly similar concept, but it is not as if I purposely emulated a certain style or design to make guaranteed money. It is a completely original game and I know this a luxury I will not have in the real world where making money is important. Overall, I find it ironic this individual instructed me to only do what “works” when new games that completely change the industry (and make millions) are often those that break conventions. If conventions are never broken then how do video games evolve? How do we accommodate new design ideas? I would argue any video game genre essentially evolved from someone breaking conventions.

    Anyway, after reading your post about how you too were frustrated with the industry always following convention, I felt compelled to thank you. Just knowing that one person in this industry believes in making games better, be that reactively to a flawed design or via a completely clean slate, lessens my fear of working in an industry that increasingly feels constrained by those more worried about making millions than creating experiences people have never felt before.

  18. Hollywood’s Long History of Mostly Failing to Make Video Games « Says:

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  20. Hollywood's Long History Of Mostly Failing To Make Video Games | Kotaku Australia Says:

    […] his then-active blog, Spector wrote in late June 2007 that one of his aims with Ninja Gold was to eschew the “juvenile manner” in which […]

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