March 6th, 2005

Because... you listen

Thoughts that I've had over the past three months:

1. Is there a mechanism that can replace raw ability and talent with education?

2. If a poorly designed game is fun, does it make sense to analyze the game design?

3. Is the intent of methodology to replace or supplement experience?

These are all basically the same question: is there a fundamental difference between what can be taught and what must be learned? I hope there isn't, but experience has taught me otherwise.

When Resident Evil 4 came out, I went out a bought a copy and didn't stop playing for about 2 weeks. It's a tremendously fun game, if you get past the control scheme. Now, one would think that I would immediately explode at the slightly revised but still the same tank control scheme; however, there are two factors that make this game not entirely disruptive:

1. The camera moves as you rotate around; this gives you a much better sense of orientation and location compared to having a fixed camera direction and watching your character rotate on screen. That's probably what annoyed me the most with the traditional Resident Evil camera system.

2. Blowing the crap out of zombies is fun. And the guns kick ass.

I hope they sell well; I hope that third-person games adopt a similar camera style. It works extremely well.

When good games come out, there is always an article that attempts to capture the development process for that game: with Metal Gear Solid 2 we heard all about the programmers writing down every crazy idea they had, and Kojima looking at all of them every week to add something new to the game. We heard about Valve's Cabal process for all their games. You probably saw the shotgun/machete approach we took for Halo 2. And Oddworld has their own unique process that basically amounts to making sure no one developer or artist can break their game.

My point is that all these studies of process and development culture don't really tell you anything about anything except how the game was made. From what I can tell, 90% of process is accidental. And the 10% that's intentional doesn't really help or hinder.

I think that some of that 90% is defined by the overall quality of the people you work with. I've had the fortune of working with a large group of highly capable and intelligent people; I don't think you can replace that quantitiy with something else. I think that if you do not acknowledge the importance of individual people, you are one step closer to not shipping a game.

What does this have to do with anything? I'm not sure. I don't even think the first part of this post has anything to do with the second part.

Ah well. Maybe my next post will help me codify the swarm of thoughts and reflections I've had for the past few months of not updaing this blog.