Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: November 2005 (page 1 of 3)

Dark Secret: I Once Watched Wrestling

I only check the Onion once a month or so, so I was surprised to see they’ve added a sports section. I only mention this because the article “The Undertaker Forced to Manage Eddie Guerrero’s Funeral” made me laugh out loud. This should tell you the sort of taste that accompanies my humor.

By way of explanation, I should point out that I once dated a wrestling fan long enough to gain a passing knowledge of the ’sport’. In fact, my brother still resents being trapped into watching Pay Per Views at my place.

“Reimagining” a Brand in Games

Here’s the other thing I thought as I read the Superman Movie Saga. In it, they talk in length about the ‘reimagining’ of the brand. Considered topics include: making his costume not blue and red. Not letting him fly. Making his powers mostly from gadgets. Making Krypton not explode. Making Lex Luthor a Kryptonian. Things that, even though I’m only a casual fan of the Superman license, rub me wrong to the core. The movie producers, on the other hand, seemed insistent that such a ‘reimagining’ was necessary to reinvigorate the Superman license.

The thing that struck me- has any game ever so radically tried to reinvent a character or franchise from another media genre? I mean, sometimes we have to limit what you can do for feasibility, but if we were making a game based on Batman Begins, we wouldn’t start by saying, “He’s too dark. We should try to lighten this up.”

Would we? Am I missing obvious counterexamples?

 

Original comments thread is here.

Sequelitis vs. Building Brands

The rant last week about sequels brings to the forefront a natural problem with sequels. On one hand, in today’s risk-averse development environments, it’s easy to retreat to your licenses as a safe bet, but doing so so often has the potential to burn out those licenses. Companies need to develop new IPs to survive.

On the other hand, the true value in gaming of developing IP is so you have something to build on for the future. Sequels pay the bills more reliably than untested blue sky IP. Until you drive them into the dirt, that is. Continue reading

Moving Beyond Sequelitis

Literally, after five years of the conventional wisdom being that only established franchises and sequels could exist in the games market, someone finally got the idea that maybe, just maybe, the people are tired of the same old, same old (found via Kotaku). Of course, reading the article, it looks like Next Gen has just chosen to play up a throwaway line from the analyst and make it the headline.

That doesn’t make it not true, though. The games I’ve seen getting buzz are Guitar Hero, D&D Online, the Movies, Shadow of the Colossus and Civ IV. Only one of those is a sequel, and the other four are at least TRYING new things (although whether they’re succeeding undubitably will spark healthy debate on their own). Meanwhile, no one talking about games in the communities I lurk in has even pointed out that Soul Caliber 3 has hit shelves, much less asked if it’s any good. Continue reading

CSI: Miami Takes Anti-Gaming Plotlines To New Lows

At some point, my dearly beloved fiancee got addicted to procedural crime shows like CSI, and as a result, I watch a lot of them too. The only one that’s really actually good is CSI:Original Vegas Flava – during the rest of them, I tend to play Magic: Online or otherwise surf around for blogworthy material.

In the last couple of years, a veritable subgenre of the crime procedural has arisen, where Killer Gamers are the culprits! Virtually all of the shows have done one, and virtually all of them show no awareness for gamers, gaming or the game industry. SVU had kids reenacting Grand Theft Auto scenes. Criminal Intent had people programming bots to play a game to provide them an alibi. CSI: New York had possibly the best one, involving an overworked game designer going nuts and killing someone in an episode that looked to be inspired more by ea_spouse than Jack Thompson. Even Killer Instinct, a show so bad it will be lucky to hit 10 episodes, has already managed to sneak a gaming episode in. Continue reading

Video Game Awards: Expect Another Travesty

Last year, I complained about the travesty that is the Spike TV Video Game Awards. I gave 55 reasons.

This year, I may only need one, courtesy of Jamie Fristrom who saw the awards live late last week.

So, here’s the thing. This show doesn’t air until December. They were giving awards to games that aren’t even done yet. So who chooses these things? “Your bullshit academy,” as Jack Black put it, accepting an award for a game that isn’t done yet in a prerecorded sequence – I wonder if they’ll leave that in the final cut?

Ye gods. The game Jamie’s talking about is King Kong, which goes on sale today. And while everyone here at the office who has seen it (it’s an Ubi product) has raved about it, it doesn’t bode well for the overall integrity of the awards.

 

Jack Thompson Update

Game Politics remains the top source of news regarding our favorite anti-gaming scoundrel. This morning they report two amusing stories. The first is that Jack Thompson’s book, Out of Harm’s Way, has been, predictably, bookstormed on Amazon.com, as various members in the gaming community have proceeded to helpfully provide tags, customer images and reviews for the tome. This, of course, has prompted Jack Thompson to threaten Amazon with legal action (summaries here and here). It also has, purportedly, a review from Amazon.com written by Jack himself(supposedly – there is no way to verify as of yet), which of course Amazon removed since you’re not supposed to review your own books (perhaps Amazon also didn’t like being described as a ‘neanderthal blog’ as well).

Meanwhile, in a ‘you can’t quit, you’re fired’ moment, the judge on the case that Thompson attempted to withdraw from a couple of weeks ago has rejected Thompson’s request, solely so the judge would have the privilege of removing Thompson himself. A side effect of this action is that the judge has forwarded the matter to the Alabama Bar for ‘appropriate action’. Judge Moore commented “Mr. Thompson’s actions before this Court suggest that he is unable to conduct himself in a manner befitting practice in this state.”

Again, if like me, you can’t get enough of these theatrics, add the Game Politics blog to your Bloglines feed.

 

Sequelitis vs. Building Brands

The rant last week about sequels brings to the forefront a natural problem with sequels. On one hand, in today’s risk-averse development environments, it’s easy to retreat to your licenses as a safe bet, but doing so so often has the potential to burn out those licenses. Companies need to develop new IPs to survive.

On the other hand, the true value in gaming of developing IP is so you have something to build on for the future. Sequels pay the bills more reliably than untested blue sky IP. Until you drive them into the dirt, that is.

So what proportion of a company’s wealth should be devoted to building sequels? I don’t know, but I know that right now, we’re making too many of them. Jason Della Rocca points to very casual research that reports that only 12% of the games we make are not sequels or license-based product. For movies, that number is 77%.

Well, then.

The other interesting balance when working with licenses and building sequels is wondering how far to stray from the source material. If a sequel is exactly like it’s predecessor, then it runs the risk of generating very little excitement (see again the crickets chirping any time you mention Soul Caliber III). On the other hand, you run into very dangerous waters if you mess too much with the formula. Read, if you will, this horrifying and hilarious account of the desperate attempts to get the newest Superman movie off the ground. Included are attempts to make Superman not fly and use gadgets (to rip off Batman), making him use kung-fu (to rip off the Matrix) or making him dump kryptonite into mount doom (I’m only slightly stretching that one). I hadn’t really followed this story since Kevin Smith ran running and screaming from the whole thing.

The Golden Rule of IP is to treat the IP like it’s gold, or soon it won’t be worth gold. That means not throwing out what the IP at it’s core means, and not churning out cheap sequels to milk it fast. Given our media, which has the concept of the expansion pack, doing so is only short-sighted.

Drive-By Linkage


I thought K:TG was popular, but apparently not popular enough! My new goal in life is to have my next internet joke result in a Jeopardy question like Leeroy Jenkins (movie). The blank look on the faces of the contestants is worth the time to watch the movie (found via Kotaku). Continue reading

A Parable In Blue

Raph has offered his explanation as to why more games aren’t made for women, via parable of people who can’t see blue.

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