Friday, March 23, 2007

Denis Dyack: Unplugged, and Occasionally Unhinged

I'm late to the party on this.

Denis Dyack (co-founder of Silicon Knights, currently developing Too Human) was on an EGM podcast last week, which turned out to be a free-wheeling discussion of EGM's criticism of the the Too Human demo shown at E3 this year.

After doing a cover story about Too Human only months earlier, EGM's write-up of the E3 presentation (according to the podcast) included the phrase "I wouldn't show this at a high school science fair."

This podcast basically turned into an argument over EGM's evaluation of the E3 demo.

Dyack, at first, comes off as pretty sympathetic. He's having a discussion and he sounds reasonable. He's trying to make several points, among them "there's no chance to make a qualitative assessment of anything at E3." That's entirely true.

After that, though, he starts to go off the rails. He says that "industry people" know Too Human is going to blow everyone away, and he says that Too Human is going to be SO good that it's going to make EGM look bad when it does come out. Oh, and one of the reasons the game was so heavily criticized was because Silicon Knights had left Nintendo, and everyone is in love with Nintendo, so they're punishing him.


Look, the E3 evaluation process IS unfair (or was, since E3 doesn't exist anymore). Almost any preview evaluation process is unfair--but it's unfair to the consumer in its current form, not the developers. 90% of games get glowing previews written about them based on a highly-scripted, controlled tour. Maybe there's not a quid pro quo between the writer and the developer, but from the outside it certainly appears that way. If a writer from "Magazine Z" trashed Developer's "Game A" after seeing it at an exclusive preview, I'm guessing that the developer would be in no hurry to show them "Game B."

Seriously, how often do you read a preview of a game that is highly negative? I've seen them, but they are very, very rare. It's all stacked in favor of the developer.

Here's Dyack's problem: he admits the E3 build wasn't ready to show and wasn't really representative of the game's quality. But he's complaining about how negative EGM's E3 evaluation turned out to be. Well, if you don't have a build that displays the game's quality, how is anyone supposed to know the quality of the game? If EGM had praised the game instead of slamming it, he wouldn't be on a crusade about how he got screwed by EGM and how unfair it is to show games before they're finished.

And when he talks about how everyone loves Nintendo and never gives a Nintendo game a bad preview--again, he wasn't complaining about this when he was a second-party developer for Nintendo, was he? It all comes off as a giant case of sour grapes on his part by the end of the segment.

Surprisingly, EGM acquitted themselves very, very well. There were three EGM editors on the show (Mark MacDonald, Shane Bettenhausen, and Bryan Intihar), and they all came off as intelligent and reasonable. They were also quick to point out when Dyack was contradicting himself.

Look, Denis, if you're making a great game, you'll have scoreboard when it comes out. That's how it works. All you did with that podcast was dent your own image.

If you'd like to hear the podcast for yourself, go here (it's the March 12 podcast).

And if you'd like to read a well-written column on this subject (instead of just "written," like mine), check out DQ reader's Brandan Cackowski-Schnell's blog here (the post is "A Momentary Diversion").

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