Take it to the games...

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Take it to the games...

Postby Lowkay » Mon May 21, 2007 11:49 pm

So the thing that strikes me the most is that whenever Introversion talks somewhere in the world among all the other developers, there's always a common message that nobody ever seems to take any notice of. "There is no creativity left in the games industry", I suppose this is because all the other developers refuse to believe that adding new graphics and producing sequels to top selling games doesn't count as creativity...
I don't think that we will ever see the day that every developer is looking for some new idea that can really stimulate a player, just stick to what they know, whether it be graphics, cars, men in silly suits or stories of the war.
I guess you can put this down to the pressure that's placed on game designers in large companies, they have to make a game that can't fail - that's guaranteed to work. Of course you can never ensure that if you're going to try something new, the masses may not necessarily agree with you on what makes a great game. If only there was more of that Introversion innovation out there, reminiscent of the early days of gaming, where every game was different.
Now all I need is a great idea for a game and a way to build it, maybe we could all just become independent game studios and give the gaming industry a healthy injection of unique variety...
Alternatively make it easier for ideas to come to life, so more people have that opportunity to take it to the games...
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Postby ODDin » Tue May 22, 2007 6:47 pm

I have to admit that I don't see where you're going with this. The fact that most of the gaming industry isn't being creative and innovative isn't really news, at least, not on this forum.
Everybody here who wants to create computer games, has ideas and knows how it's done already does it. Myself, for instance, although I'm still mostly in the learning stages.
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Postby Hyperion » Tue May 22, 2007 8:03 pm

If you want to help...do something productive...

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Postby NeoThermic » Tue May 22, 2007 10:52 pm

If that's what you took away from IV's presentation, then you did good. It sometimes takes ages for people to realise that.

As for why sequels? Well, in some ways it's the sucker public that keeps buying the same game that is re-packaged with a new number on the front that is half the cause. Why innovate when you can just slap a new number on and sell more copies?

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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Wed May 23, 2007 12:30 am

I think the main problem with this line of thinking is that it is a truism. Creativity in any field is quite rare. How many statues of the Madonna holding the baby Jesus are there? How many movies about machines trying to take over the world? How many boy meets girl novels? In any art derivative work is the norm and many people distinguish themselves by their technical proficiency not innovation in core concepts. Even IVs games aren't terribly novel (we can all see the various connections to previous work).

True creativity is very rare and pure innovation is pure fiction. To discount the value of a well done derivative is to miss a lot of good work. Is the Sistine Chapel complete crap because it is yet another religious fresco? I think not.

That said it is hard to argue that there is no creativity in the game industry at a time when the Wii is booming in popularity and a game like Spore is in development.

And as for sequels it is natural to do multiple projects in the same line. Look at academics, Einstein spent most of his professional life doing research and writing papers related to space-time and relativity. Should he be condemned for doing this? Jackson Pollock like most artists produced work after work in the same style, but most people still see value in each individual work (enough to pay millions of dollars for on at least). A huge amount of work in any game is put into the engine, production tools and the like. It would be silly for a development team to spend millions on a new FPS engine make one game with it and then switch to creating an RTS (which would mean throwing away most of the previous development infrastructure). IV can be more flexible because none of their games has a very significant infrastructure, but for more high end games the infrastructure requirements are so great moving from genre to genre makes little sense, so you end up with many games based on the same basic technology.
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Postby Hyperion » Wed May 23, 2007 12:48 am

People are just harder to please.

When you've experienced everything a media can through at you, you reach a saturation level and become bored.

EDIT: throw* lol
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Postby NeoThermic » Wed May 23, 2007 1:36 am

Stewsburntmonkey wrote:Einstein spent most of his professional life doing research and writing papers related to space-time and relativity. Should he be condemned for doing this?


No. He didn't do what the likes of, for example, EA did, where he changed a few words, gave it a title which had the year in it (and added one to it), and then said it was "brand new research". That was my main stab at sequels.


Stewsburntmonkey wrote: A huge amount of work in any game is put into the engine, production tools and the like. It would be silly for a development team to spend millions on a new FPS engine make one game with it and then switch to creating an RTS (which would mean throwing away most of the previous development infrastructure).


I'm not suggesting that. I'm just suggesting that the product, if it has to be a sequel, justifies that. For example, compare/contrast UT, UT2004 and UT3 with each other. The difference is major. It justifies the sequel aspect, and they haven't gone to the point of re-packaging the same stuff. Sure, they have the same concept, FPS. They have the same kinds of weapons (bullets, rockets and some exotic energy based weapons), but there's enough difference between the three to make it worth anyone's time to play them.

Take... fifa for example:

Image
Image

Without looking at the filenames, tell me which of the two screenshots are from the later version? If you're not immediately able to tell them apart (and correctly!), then there might just be something missing. Innovation.


Stewsburntmonkey wrote:moving from genre to genre makes little sense, so you end up with many games based on the same basic technology.


It makes such little sense that I didn't suggest to move. I'm just saying, innovate in your genre. Don't just repackage the same stuff.

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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Wed May 23, 2007 1:48 am

NeoThermic wrote:No. He didn't do what the likes of, for example, EA did, where he changed a few words, gave it a title which had the year in it (and added one to it), and then said it was "brand new research". That was my main stab at sequels.


Well he did do "Special Relativity" and "General Relativity". ;)

NeoThermic wrote:Take... fifa for example:

Without looking at the filenames, tell me which of the two screenshots are from the later version? If you're not immediately able to tell them apart (and correctly!), then there might just be something missing. Innovation.


The deal with sports games like EA does is that they have to come out every year. This gives little time for the developer to do a really new game. The new release is largely just to keep the players and teams correct. If people want to pay for that update I can't really blame EA for taking their money. Every few years EA will make some more interesting changes to the sports games. The issue of course is sort of like creating a word processor, in the end there isn't a huge amount you can do that doesn't fall into the category of change for changes sake. Watch a football game (real life) today and one from the 70's and there are basically identical. It's not like you can go out and change the levels or add new characters (other they putting different names and physics on the same basic player models). Football is football and there isn't much EA can do about it (not that EA makes great stuff, but you really can't expect huge innovation in sports games).

I should also point out that trying to judge innovation based on screenshots isn't a terribly good way to go about it. If you did that with IV's games you'd think they were still living in 80's!
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Postby KingAl » Wed May 23, 2007 3:27 am

Stewsburntmonkey wrote:The deal with sports games like EA does is that they have to come out every year. This gives little time for the developer to do a really new game. The new release is largely just to keep the players and teams correct. If people want to pay for that update I can't really blame EA for taking their money. Every few years EA will make some more interesting changes to the sports games. The issue of course is sort of like creating a word processor, in the end there isn't a huge amount you can do that doesn't fall into the category of change for changes sake. Watch a football game (real life) today and one from the 70's and there are basically identical. It's not like you can go out and change the levels or add new characters (other they putting different names and physics on the same basic player models). Football is football and there isn't much EA can do about it (not that EA makes great stuff, but you really can't expect huge innovation in sports games).


I can't agree with you here. The fact that major developers can make minimal changes and still rake in cash gives the entire industry minimal incentive to innovate. This is a bad thing, regardless of its sustainability. I also doubt this is required for innovative or interesting games to have enough cash behind them - in the end you'll have a situation much like Hollywood - major studios generally churning out crap, while most interesting films are funded elsewhere.
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Wed May 23, 2007 3:50 am

Nothing is stopping people from innovating. People have tried to do new things with sports games, but they have virtually all fallen flat and died quick deaths. Like it or not there is a big market for reality based sports games. People like being able to play their favorite teams with their current rosters. People also like that the mad Madden skills they developed a couple years ago are still relevant. If they started playing with too much of the sports games they would lose their market. So in the end you can't change the game, the environment, the players or the controls and you don't have time to develop new game engines for each release, so where are you going to innovate? Sports games are all about a slow evolution since so much of the game is fixed.

As for movies, if you look at a list of the top movies of all time the vast majority were made by major studios or the Hollywood establishment. The difference is that Hollywood can afford to put all its movies (crap included) out in every cinema in the country, whereas only the creme of the indie crop comes to the attention of the public. In addition there is quite a market for bad movies. Everyone has those movies they love but are ashamed to admit to loving.
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Postby KingAl » Wed May 23, 2007 7:09 am

Nothing stops people innovating... except for lack of funding and the rejection of innovative ideas as risky.
That there's little you can change about a sports game hardly argues for the constant rerelease of new games in the same formula - not simply similar, but identical. Apparently updating teams without releasing an entirely new game is beyond developers.
The fact is, treating any endeavour focused on creation of original products as a business discourages innovation. You occasionally get examples of products which are pinnacles of the industry within its conservative bounds, but you more often get the nondescript and generic. It's true that in most industries one generally only experiences the cream of the indy crop, and I never stated that all independents are visionaries, but what distinguishes indy productions is their originality - those indy productions that attempt to compete on the same level as larger businesses crash and burn. Once productions reach bigger business they become characterised by regimented, conservative production. Whether there is a place for the generic crap is not my concern, but there most certainly is a place for originality, and one that is not fulfilled the more money is involved.

EDIT: Indeed, in the film world those few films which surpass the general mediocrity significantly and are still funded by major studios generally have something else going for them - a director or scriptwriter whose (commercial) reputation precedes them, a proven formula (e.g. comic book to screen) etc. - a similar effect can be seen with the likes of Will Wright and the license allowed of him in 'Spore' in the wake of his success with 'The Sims'. I think a significant contribution to the conservativeness in the current games industry was made by the crash of Ion Storm - what was meant to be a 'game design renaissance' created through the bringing together of many skilled artists and designers ended in commercial failure, leading the bean-counters of the industry to clamp down on the creative freedom of their employees.

Incidentally, I don't defend Ion Storm in any way - they forged their own downfall. The policy of allowing designers to roam free is bad business, while the policy of preventing it causes bad design - but what big business too often fails to realise is that good design is also good business. IV's self-sufficiency is essentially ideal when it comes to establishing this equilibrium - both business and design-wise, they've got their own best interests in mind, and thus must find the balance between creative freedom and economic sustainability to survive.

EDIT2: NeoThermic: the second one is *blurry* - that must be higher tech!
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Postby ODDin » Wed May 23, 2007 11:08 am

I think the biggest problem here is that the game industry is first and foremost an INDUSTRY- that is, it's business. What you're looking for is art.
The difference between an artist and a businessman isn't in what they do but in how they do it. It's all in the approach. An artist doesn't care about the business success of his work (at any rate, it's not something that affects his decision about how to create whatever he creates), while a business man does. The result is that the businessman creates what the public wants to buy, while the artist create what he wants to create.

Basically, I blame the public much more than I blame the companies. Companies aren't producing identical products for their own fun, they do it because the public makes it legitimate for them to do so. If FIFA games wouldn't be selling, if people would be protesting on the streets in front of EA offices, they would understand that people want innovation. They could start releasing FIFA games every 3 years, maybe, so that they would have enough time to make at least something new. But all of that doesn't happen - because people, in their majority, simply don't want innovation. And can you really blame EA for just giving people what they want?

There are, of course, companies that do make innovative games and have a big success. Diablo, for instance, basically created the RPG genre they way we know it, and was pretty damn successful. Many great and innovative games, however, are doomed to reamin with the odd prize of "the best game that nobody has played" - games such as Sacrifice, Imperium Galactica 2.

The only ones, except for the public, who can be blamed for the lack of creativity are big and fat companies, who can do something innovative simply because they will survive a commercial failure with a single game, and yet aren't doing anything. For instance, EA. Another sad example at the moment is Blizzard with StarCraft 2.
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Postby KingAl » Wed May 23, 2007 11:32 am

I wouldn't say people 'don't want' innovative games - at worst, they are indifferent to innovation: underexposed generic games die just as easily as underexposed innovative games, there just happen to be less of the latter. The fact is, where there is big money, there is also big exposure, and where there is big money there is also conservative design. Don't misattribute the source of their success.

The other factor is that, when it comes to sequels, people who liked the previous installment can be fairly sure they'll like the next one. One way to break out of this trend - requiring a carbon copy with a different number attached to gain buyer confidence - is to attach designers names to games as authors do to books - as demonstrated by American McGee and Chris Taylor.

I've no doubt that if games were more innovative, just as many would be sold, and possibly more. While consumers can be blamed for 'condoning' this approach, they can only buy what's available and what's visible, and big business does nothing to contribute to either the availability or conspicuousness of innovative games.
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Postby BrianBlessed » Wed May 23, 2007 12:28 pm

Speaking of unoriginality in games, the Second World War shooter has remained pretty much unchanged. It's obviously based on actual events, so the best they've been able to do is stick some fancy squad control mechanism on things and claim it's a new game, however to my knowledge i've yet to see a WWII shooter where you play as the Axis. Whether that comes in the form of alternate history 'Germany conquers the world' or the game consists of you fighting at normandy and then getting pushed back through France until you eventually end up in Berlin during the surrender, the game then probably ends with you in the Nuremberg trials.....well that bit wouldn't actually happen as you'd have to be far higher up the chain of command.
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Postby ODDin » Wed May 23, 2007 12:31 pm

KingAl:
Well, it's not really that simple. People really don't want innovation. When you come to a store and you see FIFA 3564, you know exactly what you're spending your money on if you're going to buy it. You know the experience. When you buy some generic FPS, you also know the experience, more or less. When you want to buy some obscure game, that doesn't even fall into any regular genre, you don't know what the experience will be like. You don't know whether you're going to like it or not. And it's a risk to spend your money or something like that.

We can see that lots of great innovative games, games that even get great reviews, are left forgotten. Just look at IV games. Steam savd Darwinia from absoulte oblivion, but it still isn't as popular as mainstream games.

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Last edited by ODDin on Wed May 23, 2007 1:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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