Gamasutra has an interview up with this Martens fellow from Blizzard, and they’ve pulled out one of the passages from it to entice us to read further. Let’s see what insight he has to offer:
Blizzard lead content designer Kevin Martens has told Gamasutra that the key to Blizzard games like Diablo III is simple enough: “endless iteration”.
Talking in an in-depth new Gamasutra interview, conducted as the Diablo III team begin public showcases of the long-awaited PC title, over 9 years after Diablo II‘s debut.
When asked whether “the development time has been extended to a surprising degree”, Martens made it clear that he thought this was an advantage, not a disadvantage:
“Here’s the secret to Blizzard games, and this is a secret that won’t help any of our competitors: endless iteration. We’ll take something, we’ll put it in the game.
Maybe we’ll like it when we put it in, maybe we won’t. We’ll leave it in there for a while, we’ll let it percolate. We’ll play it and play it and play it, and then we’ll come back. We might throw it all out, or we’ll throw half of that out and redo it.”
Martens believes in this constant iteration as a way to actually keep things fresh when making a game:
“It can be a long time, but it is fun to work on as well. That’s the thing that keeps you going. Multiplayer always works, and the builds are always playable. We’ve played them constantly, and it’s fun. You actually look forward to the weekly play session even though the game is still in progress. That’s what keeps us going, and that’s also why it takes so long. We’ll do it over and over again until it’s just right.”
That’s not a secret – everyone would do that if they could. Valve has said basically the same thing, for instance. I’ve worked on dozens of games by now, and they all change constantly in the course of development. Nobody I’ve worked with stopped iterating their design, trying to get closer to the ideal. They all just got too close to the set-in-stone ship date and had to lock the design down in a stable state. Iteration isn’t special; what’s special is actually having the luxury of doing it for a decade and having fans who willing to wait on you.
Even so, Blizz (and Relic, for another example) don’t try to iterate forever out of the public eye. Half the point of public betas is to put the game in front of the people who will eventually buy it and keep the hype and excitement going. Ideally the excitement will continue to percolate until it reaches a boil at public release.
If Kevin Martens honestly believes that Blizzard has stumbled onto some novel design methodology in “keep working on it until it is good”, he’s kidding himself. Given his little aside about the “secret” not helping any one else, it seems more likely that he’s just sort of swinging his dick around in print: “The secret to being as good as us? Have all the money in the world and never let anyone tell you when you have to go gold master. Suckas! Bwahahahahaha!”
This is the sort of fluff that I expect to read in a press release; it’s the gaming equivalent of a quarterback telling ESPN “We’re just going to take it one game at a time.” I don’t really want to read something this puerile in a Gamasutra interview, and I sure as hell don’t expect to see it pulled out as a featured passage in its own article.