Matt's Podcast 8: Nincompooping all over the games industry

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Matt Barton's picture

Hi, all. I'm back this week with another hour long, poorly organized rant about everything from why L.A. Noire sucks as an adventure game to why Arkham City is to quests what bullet hell is to bullets. I also talk about the real reason why we hoard videogames and how, no matter how many games we collect, we'll never find The One.

Foam and cry with me by downloading this downer now!
Matt's Podcast Episode 8

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Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I'm lucky if there's even one

I'm lucky if there's even one game per year I'd consider great. There are lots and lots of good games, such as Portal 2, Gears of War 3, Arkham City, L.A. Noire, etc., but nothing I'd want to hold up as a shining example of GREATNESS. It's basically just more of the same these days. It's been too long since there was an AAA title that was truly unique (at least one that was worth a damn). I'm getting really tired of these companies milking their formulas and franchises until all the fun is gone. I think that's what a lot of us going through now; you can just play DOOM clones for so long before you just get burned out. What we really need is something fresh.

I think the only way we'll get it is if a genius game designer finds him or herself in a position of authority and can really achieve his vision. I know there are many of them out there, but as I keep saying, their hands are tied. By the time all the committees and their focus groups get done with it, Genius Idea is poked, prodded, and smashed until it's just another clone.

I think games are really bad off because it just costs so much to make an AAA game that they're forced to play it safe. It's not like the comics industry where you can afford to take an occasional risk with a new book. Movies have more flex, too. But with games, if you don't put the money into them, you get something that just looks and feels cheap. Hard to get excited about that. I'm also concerned that we don't really celebrate the best designers; they get lost in the mix. I bet the typical gamer couldn't name one, much less the average person. There's something bad wrong when games are selling more than the biggest movies and the man on the street can't give you a single name associated with one.

I don't see any room here for the equivalent of Orson Welles or Peter Jackson to grab the reigns in and do a real masterpiece. I guess we might get there if we end up like the late 70s when Hollywood was simply FORCED to try something new, letting folks Spielberg and Lucas do their thing.

n/a
Michael G. (not verified)
Hey Matt, first off, thanks

Hey Matt,

first off, thanks for the podcast! I'm always happy to find a new tweet from you saying "New podcast episode". :)
This one was very pleasant to listen to, as your rant was a bit less vitriolic than your (still highly enjoyable) rant on Skyrim.
On the subject of hoarding and growing out of games, I think we're simply seeing the consequences of games being turned into mainstream entertainment. People who started playing decades ago, especially on the PC, didn't care about mainstream entertainment when they played games. They were at the bleeding edge of technology; they were venturing into the uncharted lands of cyberspace, with new things to uncover at every corner.

We didn't just want to waste time with those ambitious CRPGs, or even with new forays into 3D gaming like Doom or Wolfenstein. It was about the discovery of a virtual world, and all the things that were possible in such a world. I think at around that time, as games kept progressing and innovating, we kind of subscribed to the idea that this would go on forever. However, we didn't think about the fact that it cost more and more to make these games, that they needed a bigger and bigger audience, and that they had to be turned into pure entertainment to manage a return on investment.

I think those of us who never were interested in the pure entertainment value of games alone are now seeing that we're simply not the audience for this stuff anymore. We want a challenge. We want to venture through uncharted territory. In that vein, it makes perfect sense that you want to make games instead, because it is a challenge. It is uncharted territory for you. And it also makes perfect sense, if we still cling on to the old promise of video games, that we are starting to hoard games, because we're looking for evidence that somewhere in someone is still keeping that promise.

Perhaps what's happening right now at DoubleFine games, or what happened with Minecraft, is a way out of this. Let people directly invest in games that the mainstream market couldn't justify.

Perhaps, however, we simply need to realize that it might be better if we just looked for our uncharted territory and our challenge elsewhere. Maybe learn a new language, read some books on advanced math, do some grass-roots activism, or try to make a game yourself. It's alright if we keep thinking about games, talking about the good times we've had, and every now and then try something new. But it shouldn't surprise us that some product designed for the majority of today's 15-year old demographic won't constitute a good way to spend your time as an adult.

Best regards,
Michael

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Michael, I think you NAILED

Michael, I think you NAILED it:

Quote:

I think those of us who never were interested in the pure entertainment value of games alone are now seeing that we're simply not the audience for this stuff anymore. We want a challenge. We want to venture through uncharted territory. In that vein, it makes perfect sense that you want to make games instead, because it is a challenge. It is uncharted territory for you. And it also makes perfect sense, if we still cling on to the old promise of video games, that we are starting to hoard games, because we're looking for evidence that somewhere in someone is still keeping that promise.

Yup! That's it.

I think you're exactly right about the thrill of those games being transferred to developing them. I've said before that in a lot of ways, creating a game is a lot like playing the ultimate adventure game. You know WHAT to do, you know it's possible, but it's the HOW that eludes you. It's also similar to the thrill you get in a game when you stat thinking along these lines:

"Man, wouldn't it be cool if I could do X instead of Y?"

Of course, in most games you're just stuck with X. But if you're the developer, you CAN do X instead of Y--just a matter of implementing it.

n/a
Anonymous (not verified)
Matt, either you did not play

Matt, either you did not play Arkham City or you are just complaining to complain.. Noone makes you accept the sidequests. If you want to ignore the phone, you can ignore the phone. The only thing you have to do is the main quest. If you want to just fly and beat people up, you can just do that.

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