Amid Other Seemingly-Reasonable Questions

Dear Skynet,

When you created your incredibly evil human-slaughtering 2-wheeled Termicycles, why in the name of Steve McQueen did you give them handlebar grips, shift levers, brake levers, and the rest of the control systems that would allow a human being to ride them?

Just askin’. Cause, y’know, you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble if you’d left off even one of those many components. I mean, if you wanted to.



Peter Moore Tells You Something You Already Knew, Eats A Kitten

For reasons that frankly escape me, last week’s gaming sites devoted more than a few digital column inches to the “news” that Peter Moore had abruptly caught on that maybe we wouldn’t all be buying games on disc forever. At last week’s PLAY Digital Media Conference, Mr. “Y’know, things break” was giving a talk on microtransactions when he uttered what was apparently a dark incantation to nether deities:

“I’d say the core business model of video games is a burning platform. Absolutely. We all recognize that, and we’ll recognize it 10 years from now when we tell our grand kids,” he said. “We’ll tell them we used to drive to the store to get shiny discs that have bits and bites on them and we’d place them in this thing called a ‘disc tray,’ and it’d whirl around…and they’ll go ‘What?'”

“So, the concept of physical packaged discs and the core business model that is video games as it currently stands is a burning platform.”

[redacted to make the man look bad]

“As an industry, I still think we may be as many as a decade away from saying goodbye to physical discs,” Moore added. “The important question is, what does the next console look like? Does it actually have a disc drive?”

A snarky man would insert a picture of a PSP Go here.

I don’t understand why absolutely everyone had to cover this non-statement. Because Peter Moore said it out loud during a panel about subscriptions and microtransactions? For God’s sake, he’s a professional hype man; all he was really doing was hyping the thesis of the panel he was speaking on. He’d have been an idiot to say “disc-based media will be around forever, and digital distribution will remain, at best, a supplement to it” during a panel on digital distribution, and a liar to boot. There are successful products and entire companies built around this same essential understanding of the direction in which gaming, if not computing as an entire technology, is heading.

Jeez. Moore busts out one half-decent metaphor and everyone’s on his knob. Meanwhile, Fyre and I are slaving away here in the (metaphorical!) trenches, and nobody gives a toss. No justice, I tell ya.


Once Again, Incomprehensible Developer Commentary Theater

Kotaku has an interview up with Capcom producer Jun Takeuchi, and while I appreciate that the man has to say things that will keep people buying the new games, he chose a really unfortunate tack to this:

“I think, while Resident Evil 4 is a great game, its appeal was limited somewhat to maniac players,” Takeuchi said. “With RE5, I wanted to bring the series to a larger audience. I think its important to do the same for the next RE.”

Ummmmmmmmm. What?

Resident Evil 4 has garnered significant critical acclaim, averaging a score of 96 on Metacritic.[12] It has received dozens of awards from various organizations and stellar reviews from various video game websites.[46] The game was considered by critics as a top contender for 2005’s Game of the Year. The game was a successful crossover hit as the new gameplay alterations and immersive style appealed to many not previously familiar with the Resident Evil series.[47] Nintendo Power named it their 2005 Game of the Year, and ranked it number 1 on their list of the “Top 20 Best GameCube Games of All Time” in their 20th anniversary issue.[39] Resident Evil 4 was ranked number 1 on IGN’s Top 99 Games of All Time list.[48] The Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine named it the Game of the Year for the PlayStation 2. Game Informer gave both editions of Resident Evil 4 a perfect score, and along ranking number one on their list of “Best GameCube Games of All Time” they named it their 2005 Game of the Year.[20] It tied with Kingdom Hearts II as Famitsu’s Game of the Year 2005.[49] Subsequently, Resident Evil 4 was named “Game of the Year” at the 2005 Spike TV Video Game Awards.[50] Also, the G4 TV show X-Play named it the greatest game since the beginning of the series in April 2003.[45]
The Nintendo GameCube version sold over 320,000 copies in North America during the first twenty days. The European release sold its entire 200,000 units during the first month. As of January 2006, over 3,000,000 copies of the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions were shipped worldwide.[51] According to January 17, 2007 sales figures provided by Capcom, the GameCube version of Resident Evil 4 has sold a total of 1.6 million units worldwide, while the PS2 version has sold over 2 million units.[52]

I wouldn’t call myself an RE fanboy, particularly – I haven’t even played RE5 yet – but I like the games, and RE4 was great. It was a technically impressive and consistently enjoyable action title. I certainly wouldn’t call it a niche game by any means. I know that Mr. Takeuchi is just trying to hype RE5 and the surely-upcoming-at-some-point RE6. RE4 has probably sold about as many copies as it is likely to, so it makes sense to hype the newer titles in comparison. At the same time, what he saying is silly bullshit, and we shouldn’t let that slide when we see it. When developers say things like that, they are treating us like we are milling, dollar-fleeced sheep who gather to the exciting tone of their voices without pausing to listen to the content of their words.


[h/t Destructoid]

Is Kevin Martens Being Foolish, Or Just Bragging?

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.