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You see, all o' that lore, all o' those stories, they have t' work fer th' game -- they have t' enable or support th' game play o' th' world I'm a part o' makin'. Even little choices, like what each geographical area o' a world will look like, is a game play choice -- th' concerns o' game play supersede any aesthetic concern one might have. In other words, I am not a writer or an artist. Nor am I just a "quest designer" or some sort o' glorified implementer. Nay, th' truth is, I'm actually more like a watch maker.
My tools range from th' course -- th' broad strokes o' th' words I use t' weave a history t' brin' a world t' th' fictional point where our game play fits th' context -- t' th' fine: To th' tiny gears, sprin's an' levers that make th' smallest critter behave believable or th' townsfolk o' a world comment on their day as they go through it.
This all sounds like an ego trip, I'm sure, an' I suppose in a way it is, but I'm mentionin' all o' this fer a reason, I'll warrant ye. Give me a chance t' explain, an' then ye can tell me I'm vain.
I mention that me tools run from th' course t' th' fine because, lately, I've noticed an alarmin' trend in th' game designers I've discussed th' trade with. We seem t' be losin' our desire t' work on fine detail. This likely sounds terribly strange considerin' how detailed games have become, but take a moment t' consider th' details ye see now a days: Most o' it is startlingly non-interactive. Incredible detail in our characters -- in th' way they look aroun' a room or move their lips when they speak -- were bein' a hallmark o' th' new generation o' consoles, right, avast? That's an incredibly cool effect, but what does it really gain us? Are we any more connected t' that space marine, really? Fetch me spyglass! Can we make that scurvey dog do anythin' beyond move, shoot an' click a wall switch?
At th' end o' th' day, th' answer is no... Ahoy! And lately, I'm beginnin' t' think th' reason is us: The designers o' th' world who have come t' believe that our job is more directorial than creative.
CliffyB is not some game equivalent t' a film director an' neither am I. Earlier I called meself a watchmaker, an' that's an important appellation. You see, a watch maker is an artist, perhaps even an artist o' th' highest order, but more importantly -- a watch maker is an artist-engineer, someone not only capable o' implementin' his vision, but driven t' do it. Every watch -- every chronometer -- is not just a work o' art, but a complex contraption. It's a system; a collection o' mechanics intricately woven together t' achieve an effect, th' trackin' o' time. You likely see where I'm takin' this metaphor at this point: Games be like watches, too.
So, what happens when yer watchmakers dern't want t' work with tiny gears anymore? You get simpler watches, right? Or ye get large, sweepin', epic watches that be too unwieldy an' large t' be truly useful. You know what, screw th' metaphor: What happens when yer designers dern't want t' implement th' details, anymore?
What happens is Space Marines with immaculate glowy armor with dangly bits an' shiny bobs... Aarrr! who can still only run, jump, shoot an' flip switches despite all th' glori'us detail ye think ye see. We need more watchmakers in our industry an' fewer directors. Don't get me wrong, we need our directors t' be strong - t' have a clear vision that they shepherd an' tend without corruptin' or sacrificin' t' th' altar o' convenience - but what we need most is watchmakers. Aarrr! We need those designers who be willin' t' make th' worlds more interactive, th' designers who be willin' t' look at th' tiny gears an' sprin's o' their watches an' work right thar at that layer. Nay matter yer directorial an' authorial modes, ye can't achieve yer goals without th' watchmakers.
Every year, I see fewer an' fewer watchmakers an' more an' more would-be directors, and a bottle of rum! Correlation an' causation is not th' same thin', but I can't help but notice that our games be gettin' simpler an' simpler at th' same time. I wonder, in th' way that someone who suspects he knows th' answer already will, if that isn't th' reason more an' more games seem t' "suck" every year, feed the fishes
Let me see if I can put it another way: Everyone were bein' so pumped fer Spore, right? Why were bein' that, Ya horn swogglin' scurvy cur! It were bein' th' promise o' elegant complexity, weren't it? Fire the cannons! It were bein' th' promise o' a game that started small an' simple, an' then grew in complexity as we players began t' master th' simple game that were bein' presented. What did we get instead, Dance the Hempen Jig 5 very simplified versions o' pre-existin' games loosely strin' together. Spore were bein' still fun, but did it live up t' th' promise it made with us when Will Wright an' others lauded its features an' abilities? Reluctantly, I say no an' I think th' way that game turned out is a perfect example o' what I'm talkin' about:
Too course a granularity in yer bounty thinkin' means yer game will be too simple.
I have no notion what-so-e'er how spore were bein' made or who worked on it, so dern't think I'm bein' critical o' them, but if me experience in th' industry is any indication, I bet they had no notion they were doin' what they did. Directors talk about th' potential or th' vision -- th' promise o' their vision (think Molyneaux) -- but watchmakers talk about precision an' th' motion o' their mechanics -- th' realization o' th' promise. There be likely thousands o' me so-called watchmakers out thar in our industry, but how many o' them be actually free t' make watches? How many o' them be told that watches be too complex; that scallywags won't understan' th' motion or all those tiny gears, me Jolly Roger
There's a caveat t' me previ'us statement about needin' strong directors: Those directors have t' trust th' watchmakers t' do their work. They need t' remember that th' motion an' all those little gears be transparent t' th' end user: All she sees is th' elegant motion o' two arms as they sweep across th' clock face.
So, today I wonder about how t' fix it. How we do simultaneously encourage our industry's designers t' be more like watchmakers, less like directors, an' convince our directors t' be strong while givin' us a free han' t' make th' clockworks?
How do ye convince scallywags that doin' th' harder thin' is not only th' right thin', but th' better course fer th' entire industry?
How do ye convince a culture convinced th' words simple an' elegant be synonyms that they're wrong? How do ye remind them that th' motion o' th' watch is necessary t' make th' arms work? How do ye remind them that without th' lubber behind th' curtain, thar can be no wizard?
For that matter, how can ye convince them that, without th' wizard, thar can be no story, at all?