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Discussion in 'Shroud of the Avatar Discussion Hall' started by BenK, Mar 21, 2013.
I've tried to watch/listen to each of the interviews/videos that LB has put out since the announcement of SotA and one portion of those puts the perspective on the statement he made (and I think if some Ultima fans who are skeptical about SotA need to take into account as well) in regards as to why he went the Kickstarter route. That portion is where he's discussing Kickstarter and his experience as a designer both as the founder of Origin and under the EA label. He states that he feels that his best work came with Ultimas 4, 7, and Online. 4 of course being his own creation under Origin, 7 being the first as Origin was being bought out by EA (in fact, much of Black Gate's in-jokes are digs at EA), and Online was developed pretty much AGAINST EA's wishes. He considered the worst to be Ultima 8 and Tabula Rasa... 8 being gutted of most of the content that the game was supposed to have turning it into a mess and Tabula Rasa had been scrapped and restarted three times due to NCSoft's demands (not to mention the contract negation move by NCSoft).
Considering that LB is a pioneer in the field of PC gaming as a whole even beyond RPGs with his focus on RPGs, it's a statement not really of bragging, but of simple truth. The problem is that because he's stating a flat truth, the gaming media and detractors went to town with it. Think about it... how many MMOGs now are Level/Raid EQ/WoW with different skins? What about FPSs in general? Same concepts, different looks and sounds... be it WWII or Dystopian Future.
Obviously there have been some standouts from the norm, and a lot of time it's the more Indie products that do so... Braid and Portal for a couple, but most just end up being variations on a theme. Look how Blizzard screwed up Diablo 3 (polished in some areas, but took too much of a turn away from Diablo 2 and towards WoW) compared to Grinding Gear Games's Path of Exile which is a bit rougher, but is currently in a faster development speed and not having to try and tack on extra character levels because they screwed up the original game.
In regards to online RPGs and MMOGs, LB has easily had the most ability to step back and watch how the genre has developed, where UO succeeded and failed, how the Level/Raid model came into prominence and how every game company wants a "WoW copy". He's been able to see how the companies have brought up developers, and for those following UO watching, we've been able to see it happen as well both in good ways and... not so good ways. We've seen UO teams that have been willing to work with the UO player base and those who have kept the playerbase at a LARGE distance away.
I think LB has a legitimate leg to stand on to make the claims he did, but that to me doesn't give him an automatic pass. He is making some HUGE claims for SotA which he's going to have to fill to keep people from considering him a "has been". SotA as he's hyping it up to be may be his last "make or break" title, and I think he knows that, so he wants to go back to his early methods of having full creative control over the game rather than having to cater to the whims and schedules of a corporate entity.
He's got people up in arms because he told a truth that most people don't want to hear. It's like a pro athlete telling high school kids that they aren't nearly as good as they think they are and that only a very few will reach the level they are at professionally. It's 100% true, but it's not going to be very inspiring to the kids. However, now he has to prove himself again as one of the top tier designers.
Well, I'm a game designer and I agree to some extent. My company hired and fired 5 game designers before they finally let me (fresh out of school) become lead game designer. They hired these other guys, often for very high salaries, who really just sucked. No math skills, no system design skills, and so on. These people had no idea what could be programmed or not, and no idea that what they asked of the art team and engine was unfeasable. They just had some leadership skills, social skills and good presentation skills (which is probably the reason they were hired in the first place). Since my social skills aren't so awesome, I often got the blame for the stuff they messed up, while they took my work and presented it as their own.
I feel that really good designers, not just me but also the other good designer I know, never really get a chance to produce the games they want. With the company, we've been looking for an investor for 2 years to make a sandbox RPG/Strategy game. No investor found. While the company next door promised they'd release a Farmville clone, an Ikariam clone, an OGame clone and a fourth nondescript game and got 5 million in investments in weeks. Of course all those games failed, but investors ONLY invest in "proven" game concepts (aka a direct copy of an existing game that has 'proven' to work). That's why you see so many farmvilles and so many world of warcraft clones and so few new innovative game concepts.
So you think we should go to kickstarter? Think again, we've been there and failed miserably (10k out of 85k). The press wouldn't report on us so no-one donated. Kickstarter is only going to work if you've got succesful developers on board that worked on Halo/Diablo and have 10 other AAA games in their portfolio.
Since there has been little income from the game studio, I've been looking for another job, but the only companies that consider hiring me are those 1001 online webgame portals where I can work on creating the next Evony or Lords and Knights clone.
The original artical mirrors RG's theme in the rebuttal. The original artical screams "out of context". Ablaze with bold inflammatory subtitles designed hook the reader into slurping down some juicy reality tv-esque banter. Just like many games today it lacks "the small stuff".
Too many games spoon feed linear progression to the gamer and offer little in the way of a distraction from the grind. I think this has a lot to do with what RG is trying to say. Just like any other project in industry, games have a budget, a time line and upper management pushing the lets make money release date. If the designers do not know what the programmers and artists can or can not do (in the time given) then they waste everyone's time feeling out the limitations. Though if you are a good programmer and a good artist, you truly are limited to your imagination as to what you can or can not accomplish. Put three good experienced programmers/artists in a designer position, give them a theme and a timeline, and they will almost always out perform a three person team of divided talent. And the designer on the divided team will most likely be the weak link.
I think RG has some deep insights into gaming. I hope he can put everthing together in SotA. UO was built for gamers like me. I have plenty of time to game and get into the small stuff. In fact the entire game is small stuff with virtually no linear progression at all. Each and every time you log in you create your own progression. Thumb through any interview asking RG of his fondest UO memories and you will alomost always read the thief and the fisherman story. Two tiny simple aspects of the UO seemed to fascinate him for the insight into his and others' humanity.
I read his thoughts on social gaming and the popularity of games like FarmVille which he described as the third generation of gaming. Though Im not too sure this was the start of a third generation of gaming. I think it was a non-gamer version of gaming. We had "social games" a long time ago with online pvp like Quake, battle.net and later Halo. Farmville just stripped away a layer of geek and allowed folks who had time to kill to play nice together on a quick and easy to access platform.
So there's the balance that online game makers today will have to deal with to produce the next big hit. It is a tough mix of content to keep the powergamer base hooked, easy linear progression to keep those with limited time interested plus quick easy access and interaction with friends both on and offline. And it will be on the designer's, artist's and programmer's shoulders to make it work. Just please, for the love of all that is good, don't integrate it with kinect!