Monday, June 18, 2007


I linked to an interview with Tyler Bleszinski two weeks ago here.

It's bothered me since then. Something in that interview just seemed, well, wrong, but I couldn't quite identify the problem.

Yesterday, it hit me, and to help me with the explanation, here are a few excerpts from the interview:

If Nintendo has its way, young males will no longer be the dominant segment of the console audience--and this transition appears to be happening faster than I expected. can count on other gaming companies who cater to the more hardcore gamer--aka me and the milions of others who've been driving this business--to promptly change direction.

...if people want to play the WarioWare mini-games more than the meaty experiences that hardcore gamers love, you're inevitably going to see a corresponding shift in development.

...why would publishers want to continue to the time and effort to develop an in-depth, cinematic experience when they could slap together a bunch of mini-games with waggle and make just as much money, if not more?

...I'll repeat this again: I am not saying that the more hardcore games are going to die out. Smart developers and publishers will realize that they can make a mint off the hardcore, especially if more developers move towards the quick, jump in-jump out type of experience that many Wii and DS games offer. But they will be in the minority. Valve, Epic and others won't turn to making mini-game compilations, but I can definitely see companies like EA and Ubisoft realizing that they don't need huge development teams and hundreds of people working on a game to make a ton of cash in the land of mini-game moneymakers. It's like suddenly discovering that business plan behind McDonald's is applicable to video games.

... These same people didn't jump into hardcore games before the Wii...

Somebody send Tyler some fiber, stat. He's hardcore.

Let's look at a little history.

I think there are two major ways to view games: as an experience or as a competition.

In the mid 1980's, arcade games represented the competition aspect of gaming. PC games were usually experiences, not competitions. The opponent (the A.I.) was just part of the experience.

In 1993, though, Doom was released, and the orbit of gaming irrevocably changed.

In a word: deathmatch.

Follow Doom (1993) to Quake (1996) to Unreal Tournament (1999) to Halo (2001) [note: I'm getting enough e-mail from people that I think it's fair to question whether Halo really belongs in this group. Certainly, more people appear to be playing Halo just for the single-player game than I thought.] I'd list all the various iterations of the franchises, but really, does it matter? Deathmatch is what turned computer and console games from experiences into competitions.

Suddenly, the competition wasn't part of the experience--it was the experience.

Welcome to the frag.

Is there anything wrong with making games for people who want to compete against each other? Hell, no. But don't even try to tell me that Tony Teabagger represents the "hardcore."

Competition against other humans is not what makes gamers hardcore. It's not a requirement.

Seriously, what exactly is Tyler bemoaning here? The death of the "in-depth, cinematic experience," as he puts it?

Who the *uck makes those?

Not Epic. Look, I buy everything Epic makes, and I've written about why I do: their support of the mod community. I totally respect them for that reason, and I really like Epic as a company. But the next in-depth cinematic experience they put out will be their first.

Gears of War? Please. The single-player experience was staggeringly beautiful and absolutely paper-thin. Crap dialogue. Incredibly repetitive gameplay.

And Gears of War is as close as they've gotten. By far.

Just to clarify: I know that Tyler doesn't work for Epic. But I think it's fair to assume that Cliff's (his brother) games represent what Tyler believes is the "hardcore" experience.

Very few people play Quake or Halo for the single-player experience. Tyler's lamenting the death of a type of game that barely even exists.

Bethesda makes those kinds of games, and they're terrific. Valve does, too. Bethesda and Valve make games in different genres, but they both show a high level of attention to detail, and they understand how to create an experience.

For every game that successfully captures the "in-depth cinematic experience," though, there are at least twenty (or thirty, or fifty) that don't.

Here's the thing: those development teams of hundreds of people with huge budgets? Quite frequently, they put out a very average game. Or worse. Very few gaming companies have proven that they can handle the organizational demands and have the discipline required to manage projects like that.

Remember, before the Wii came out, developers were decrying the size of the teams and the budgets needed to make games for the 360 and PS3. Remember that? The project sizes were unmanageable, the budgets were going to bankrupt companies, blah blah blah.

Now, when the market suddenly starts to change because of the staggering success of the Wii, what are people complaining about? Smaller teams and lower budgets!

EA? Tyler thinks that EA is going to turn into McDonald's? For *uck's sake, Tyler, EA IS MCDONALD'S. They've been churning out mediocre game after mediocre game for years. What was the last great single-player experience developed by EA?

No hurry. I'll wait.

Here's the irony in his comments: the "waggle" IS hardcore. When it's used properly, motion-sensing is a quantum leap in intensity over sitting on your ass on the couch. It's not Nintendo's fault that the "hardcore" want to whine and cry about the graphics instead of focusing on the experience.

It's terribly ironic that so many people both in and out of the gaming industry have such a rigid definition of "hardcore" that they don't even recognize a disruptive technology that could deeply enhance the immersion and intensity of a game.

You know what's happening, don't you? A few incredibly talented people, like John Carmack and Cliffy B, so narrowly defined the present that the future ran away from them.

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