You star as, surprise, surprise, Shuggy, a purple creature that looks like it escaped the deepest recesses of Jim Henson’s mind. Shuggy, emulating our favorite, fanged friend (Dracula… not Henson), dons a black cape and sets off on an adventure. But what doing, I hear you ask with pants-wetting anticipation? Exsanguinating herds of cattle? Mutilating entire mobs, armed with pitchforks and torches? No, Shuggy shies away from Bram Stoka’s morbid musings and prefers the fluffier approach. To that end, he tries to live the high life and searches for a castle, bequeathed by his “dead as a door nail”-grandfather. However, all is not what it seems, as the castle appears haunted by ghastly ghouls and ghosts. Thus, Shuggy stoically enters the property and attempts a fixer-upper.
The Fat Cats
So, we’re aware of the top-down approach to game development, but who’s at the top and what of their mea culpa? CEOs net hundreds of thousands of dollars, annually, and are typically worth millions (many of whom, no doubt, wheel barrow stashes of cash into their savings accounts, jump on bouncy castles made of money and demand their own bling quota).
So, why are these individuals not leading by example and sacrificing portions of their own salaries and bonuses when their platforms don’t function effectively, customer service takes a downward spiral and their brand titles, produced under their supervision, fail to generate critical or financial success? What’s more, publishers are entrusted Continue reading
The Transmedia Conundrum
We’ve briefly explored how publishers can indirectly influence the direction of a project, on the auspices of imperious business doctrines, but what about directly? And, why is it a bad thing for publishers to involve themselves in game design? An anonymous insider recently posted an article, over at Kotaku, venting his spleen on the subject. The author sheds worrying light on the “high level” ponderings of his superiors:
“The publishing people all watch and then make passive, aesthetic appraisals of active, functional aspects of a game. This is because the bulk of execs can’t and don’t want to play or understand how games work. They don’t want to play. This would be akin to editors in literary publishing being unable to read or write.”
This argument, if true, offers potential insight into the fundamental basis for how a game is designed, from a top-down, corporate approach. Where do the execs get their inspiration from, if they don’t play video games? According to the same source, the answer could be film and television. So, if you’re wondering why the game you are playing is littered with pretentious, “yippee ki-yay!” moments, wrestles character agency and choice from your mitts and thrusts cutscenes down your throat, like nobody’s business, I would tentatively speculate this is, at the very least, a small part of the issue.
Ever since collections of cells harmoniously sludged together to form the first gloopy, multicellular organisms, we trudged from the oceans in search of answers. And, upon evolving into the enigmatic, knowledge-craving super-sleuths, that we are today (politicians excluded), man has asked a series of seminal questions, relating to the universe. What is the meaning of life? Why is this divine being telepathically barking orders into my head (if you belong to this camp, forget I mentioned evolution) and, most profound of all, where is my next video game coming from?
There’s a mind-boggling catalogue of games out there, waiting to be played. I, for one, have ridiculously bloated Steam and GOG accounts, stuffed to the rafters with games, diverse in genre; I just can’t help it, I become a frenzied, salivating loon, greedily snapping up the digital deals and becoming a shambling vagrant, during the holiday seasons, whilst I pay back the money. So, when presented with the opportunity, which games should I pay for, and which games should I play?
This presents an interesting starting point, when considering our primary options; the blockbuster game vs. the indie game. As of late, I tend to purchase more indie games than I do blockbuster, for a number of valid reasons; the first being financial. When people investigate a product’s intrinsic value, they often do so with an economic mindset.
The first section of a three part instalment, delving into the darker side of video game development, is inbound.
Part I will primarily focus on the tenuous “publisher-developer” relationship, and the well-publicized culture of exploitation that pervades the industry. Throughout, the financial and creative ethos of publisher-controlled studios, relative to their independent counterparts, will be investigated, alongside the ethically dubious activities of the dark, nefarious, penny-pinching executives, who spit on the impoverished masses, cattle prod the infirm, and beat cuddly animals with sticks (OK, based upon the glaring sarcasm, bleeding into this post, you can perhaps guess the tone of the article).