Kane

We are so busy looking for the Citizen Kane of Games, I don’t think we’d see it if it came right up to us.

I watched Citizen Kane a few nights ago because my girlfriend and friends had not seen it. Unlike many ‘classics’, I totally agree that it is one of the best films ever made. But if it was reviewed like games are reviewed today, I think it wouldn’t be as admired. It starts slow, repeats sections, has some odd transitions (the parrot!), and since it doesn’t progress linearly some may find it hard to follow. Plus if you take it as a send-up of Hearst it is extremely heavy-handed. It also has no violence, explosions or dick/fart jokes – the holy trinity of game features.

Passage could very well be the Citizen Kane of games. But everyone is looking for the $300 million blockbuster to transform the industry. Gamers need to be coddled by public affirmation that what they like is correct. But Kane was not a huge raging success until decades after release. Citizen Kane was a box-office failure (of sorts). The public hated it. Many walked out. I think if we feel a need to belong in the Big Boys Club by means of latching onto movie milestones, you won’t find Citizen Kane in your Half-Lifes, Metal Gears, Marios, Zeldas or Halos.

But I don’t think we really need a Citizen Kane. We won’t know what that milestone is where gaming becomes significant enough that designers are as respected as directors and playing games isn’t ridiculed as a worthwhile pastime (because those two achievements are really what we are looking for, right?) until decades after the fact.

When I am President

People above a certain weight will not be allowed to live above the first floor in apartment buildings / condos.

I have a guy that moved in above me a couple months ago that makes noise above me like the Earth is tearing open its maw and spewing forth the entrails of the deepest layers of Hell. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But my pictures about to fall off the walls.

I have no idea how/if I can handle this problem. I can’t go upstairs and be like: “Hi there, I’m Zack, I live in the unit below you. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do, but you have been making a terrible amount of noise in my unit.” What is he going to do? Stop walking around his unit? Dilemma.

I Hate The Term SKUs

Fantastic anecdote re: music executives in the 90s:

The record company exec was a woman who was about five years past their twenty-something demographic. She gave off more of a business school vibe than a rock vibe. She peppered her speech with business-school-isms like “target audience” and “units sold”. She used the word “product” several times and didn’t use the word “music” or even “album” once. Everything she knew about music didn’t come from being a fan; it came from what she’d read in her market research reports.

When you rely on market research you get stuck in a facts-without-context feedback loop where the ideas get less and less useful to the audience as you go on. Innovative thinking based on market research breaks us out of that feedback loop, but starts a new one. Only by constantly innovating can we fight against the quicksand.

I see the 1996 music executive as a 2008 game executive who doesn’t follow the causal reasoning that the market will buy a fun game at the right time for the right price and instead relies on reports of what Nintendo does (because they are quite profitable!) and wants to get their aesthetic without their investments.

Tighten the Graphics on Level Three

One of my favorite blogs, MTV Multiplayer is having a “Review Week“. Where a normal (read: shitty) blog would do reviews on Review Week, MTV will actually be doing journalism regarding the subject of reviews: Do they matter? How hard are they to do professionally? What are the behind-the-scenes shenanigans? I’m excited because Multiplayer has earned my respect and I can’t wait to see if they will talk about some of the great Untold Truths of the game reviewing industry. As a developer, I have some very strong opinions on the subject, so we will see how it unfolds. In the explanation, Tolito says:

I learned that many developers are deeply suspicious of the qualifications of many game reviewers.

Oh, really?!

I’m of two minds on the subject. On one hand, being a gamer should be credential enough to review a game. After all, they are trying to explain what the experience will be to you sir or madam gamer in as close of an approximation as they can. Sir or madam gamer is not privy to some of the tricks of the trade and may make unfounded, rash and unfair judgments, so shouldn’t the reviewers as well?

On the other hand, I’ve found most reviewers while well-meaning to be absolutely unqualified in technical knowledge and subject to herd-think prejudices. If they are just echoing the common knowledge available as the zeitgeist on any online forum or by playing the first ten minutes of a game, then what the hell good are they?

So when the correlation between Metacritic and sales is echoed time and again (which is a premise I debate the casuality of), for one (or many!) numskull reviewer(s) to sink an otherwise accomplished game to me is nearly criminal. I see people here in my studio who should damn well know better say that they will pass trying the demo for game XYZ because it is “only Metacriticing in the seventies”. Bah!

So here’s hoping for an excellent series on the old Multiplayer blogotron.

Deca-rated

Deca Sports is everything wrong with Wii Product Development. I have not played it and I will not play it. I guarentee the following was said during development by someone-in-charge:

  1. People like Wii Sports, let’s design something that for all intents and purposes looks like Wii Sports (even the packaging!). People will buy it in droves!
  2. Why is it better than Wii Sports? Um, well, Wii Sports has five sports… we have twice as many!
  3. What’s this talk about being deep? This is a casual game. It needs to be accessible. If I can’t beat it on the first try, it is too complicated. This is the Wii audience, people.
  4. Are you finished with Badminton yet? Why not? You needed to start on Archery last week! Worry about tuning the controls later. How much tuning could it need? You just shake the Remote!
  5. Of course, you think it isn’t fun. The game isn’t for you. It’s casual.
  6. We don’t need a sophisticated AI. This is supposed to be a social game. You are playing it wrong if you are by yourself.
  7. Remember what I said about playing by yourself? I was wrong, we need a bullet point for single player too. How about tournaments? Challenge mode? You can throw that together real quick, right?

Can you tell how tired I am of this strategy?

Thank God

Kouno’s reply [to the question of why his dev house was called ‘Nude Maker’] : “I feel that game designers should not make games just with the mindset of ‘I want to become famous’ or ‘I want to be well-known.’ So we want to kind of throw away these worldly concerns. And in Japanese, the saying that ‘we can become naked’ means ‘to show your true heart.’ So that’s where it’s coming from. We want to be very honest.”