Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!....or,er. don't....unless I earn it.

EDIT: I've removed alot of the preamble to this entry to make it read easier and to not confuse folks in to thinking this is a 'are games art and worthy' piece. It ain't.
+++++++++++++++++++



Ya'll read the great interviews with fellow GOD OF WAR director Cory Barlog over at N’gai’s Level Up Blog? If not, check them out. These interviews really got me thinking...

http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/levelup/archive/2008/03/11/the-cory-barlog-interview-part-i.aspx

Reading Cory's interview- for me- really brings into focus how our industry is mainly about amazingly fun (and thus needed) PRODUCTS….But yes, products, NOT art….just products.

Now let's not get into the tired argument of 'can games can be emotional and artistic?'

I'll make it easy for you :)

Yes, of course they can.

Simply playing the flash game PASSAGE (http://hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/passage/)- for me- has made this very clear and has stopped me forevermore from wavering on the subject. Hell, ONE DAY games may very well be the BEST medium from which to get our non-real-life emotional experiences.

But for RIGHT NOW, for the vast majority of people who play games, games are simply products. Video game sports. They are diversions; ultra fun diversions (and thus, to me, ultra worthy causes) but diversions nonetheless.

And because of this, I don't agree with Cory when he talks about how valued game directors should be. Or at least game directors who are making games that are- in being strong and focused on story and emotion- seemingly trying to rival what movies do so well.

And I’m not bashing Cory and his take on things. Not at all. Not only is Cory a great game director, a passionate storyteller, an amazing animator, and all around nice person, but he’s also a super smart guy. There’s a lot going on upstairs with this dude. And hell, what Cory is saying is stuff I have said in the past, almost verbatim.

Thing is, these days, in regards to this topic, I just don’t think I buy it. Not anymore.

In the interview, Cory talks about the idea that the game biz SHOULD be rewarding the key creative players for being instrumental in bringing such strong games to market. Man, I used to say the EXACT SAME THING! Hell, Dennis Dyak was saying similar things this week in a great Gamasutra article where he speaks about the need for game directors. Here, check it out:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3568/a_human_work_denis_dyack_on_what_.php

And these guys are both right in the sense that without The Dyaks or Barlogs or Levine’s, those games (GOD OF WAR II, ETERNAL DARKNESS, BIOSHOCK) would not be what they are. No doubt.

The PROBLEM tho with the argument is that the vast majority of the audience really does not care. They want Smash Bros., and Halo3, and Grand Turismo, and Call of Duty 4 and Guitar Hero and Wii Sports.

Sure they buy games like GOD OF WAR and BIOSHOCK and ICO (well…maybe they don’t buy that many copies of ICO, even tho they should!)….but there is no indication from the audience that people like me or Cory or Dennis NEED to be paid a lot more money than we currently are. There is no indication from the players that game directors like us need to be negotiated with like movie directors- as Cory suggests-in order to get us to stick around. Because there is no financial upside for the studio/publisher to bend over backwards for folks like us.

See, it’s people like us who know movies and think of ourselves as the game equivalent of a movie director (well, I used to, not anymore). And we think there should be a 1:1 relationship between the way film directors are treated/paid/negotiated with and the way game directors are treated/paid/negotiated with. We deal in stories, they deal in stories. We deal with emotions in our games, they deal with emotions in their movies. We deal with- or try to deal with- intellectual, political, spiritual topics…just like the movie directors. But the thing is, GAME directing is NOT the equivalent of MOVIE directing because movie directors- when they are good- are key to driving the vast majority of folks to the box office/video store. Even more so than a big star, in most cases. And so they SHOULD be negotiated with and given embarrassing gobs of cash in order to get them to stick around.

But in games, it’s the STARS that get the players to line up. And the STARS in games can be SO MANY different things (concept; franchise character, technology, cool peripheral,movie license, amazing blend of elements to create a story game,etc) that to say that a game publisher should pony up the cash JUST to keep a person who can bring just ONE of those marketable elements to the table does not make sense. Because a) that director needs to be surrounded by a great- and thus- expensive team in order for him to do his thing at a level that will translate into sales. This is especially true in story based, narrative games. And b) the financial value a good story based game director brings is at or towards the BOTTOM of the food chain when compared to other game 'stars' like social gaming and movie licneses. So a publisher can just pump the same amount of cash it would take to keep a good story director around for 3 games, say, into a few different games, each with a different ‘star’; rolling the dice on a game that shines via tech and another that shines via peripheral and another that shines via movie license. And hell, those sorts of games are- most times- easier to make anyway! And more often than not, they sell better than the story based stuff (compare sales of the fantastic Uncharted to Singstar or American Idol or the Harry Potter or Fantastic Four video games).

So while I agree emotionally and phlisophically with Cory and Dennis and all the other game directors who have made amazing games that feel like movies, if I were a game publisher,while I would do a lot to keep these talented folks around, I would not brake the bank to do it. Because in games, I can get my hits from all over the place because there are many, many reasons that people play games and the vast majority of the gamers out there are NOT lining up to pay top dollar for games that give them the same feelings/ideas/vibes that movies do. Hell, I don’t have the figures, but it would not surprise me if the semi-sub par (but still kinda fun) casual title CARNIVAL GAMES has not made more cash than GOD OF WAR I. Certainly they have a higher profit margin and could very well have earned a higher dollar amount as well. (Note: I just read today that Carnival Games has sold thru 1 million copies...so they have not yet made more cash than GOD OF WAR, but they are well on their way).

And come to think of it, if the key person/people behind Carnival Games (could be a director, could be a coder, hell, it could be a guy in marketing) was able to get on a roll of 3-4 games that performed at the level of Carnival Games, then THAT person or group of people would be someone I WOULD bend over backwards for. Hell, a person who can make cheap ass games that sell great?!?! Where do I sign??! And it's NO DIFFERENT IN THE MOVIE BIZ. The reason the studios bend over backwards for Michael Bay and Gore Verbinski is NOT because they are moved by the amazing artistry of the films those directors make, but because they are moved by how much MONEY those films bring in.

So if we want to be treated- as Cory suggests- with the same level of financial respect as movie directors, then we need to start making games that are such BIG SUCCESSES that it makes the money peeps look like idiots to turn their backs on us. But right now, it makes good money sense to turn your back on someone like me and to give that money to someone like the guys at Harmonix or Neversoft or Zipper (they of Socom fame) or to that man in the picture up above playing Wii sports with Stevey Spielberg. Because that person and those companies are making the games that bring home not just the bacon, but the whole motherfucking pig. If people who make games that are movie-like want to be treated like people who make movies, then our movie-like games need to somehow find a way to become the biggest successes in the gaming business. And that- so far- has simply not come close to happening.

Of course, this is just now. In the future, things may change.

Or maybe not.

Because the reality is, in the future there may very well be the Holo-Deck from Star Trek where players can step into elaborate fantasies with depth and meaning and characters. But there will also be a Holo-Deck simulation where you can take center stage at the Staples center in LA (or better yet, a seedy club on Sunset Blvd) and Guitar Hero your way to really being a rock star, with the smell of pot filling the air, the bic lighters raised high, and groupies backstage waiting just for you.

And between those two options, just like today, I bet the Guitar Hero Holo-Deck experience would kick the shit- sales wise- out of the Holo-Deck version of Final Fantasy or God of War or Too Human...or, sadly, Ico.

David

94 comments:

someone said...

Dave you should check into some moderators for Twisted Metal: Head On Online (PSP). Just spend a full 24 hours online and you will see what I mean.

da criminal said...

Care to ellaborate?

David

someone said...

hackers, spammers, pozers, pedophiles. Just log on real quick and you will notice a locked room up 24/7 'Visit www.73ullet.com" 73ullet is a hacker that loves to cheat and humiliate those he beats. he calls everyone a noob and he does this hack where he can shut down your PSP. Also alot of people putting up useless game rooms like "I need a GF".

da criminal said...

Ah well- welcome to the internet!

We'll try to keep an eye out for that on our new game and do what we can to police it a bit more. Thanks for the heads up! :)

David

da criminal said...

ps. if you actually have info about someone doing something illegal there however, as in pedophiles, you really need to report that. Spammers and pozers is one thing...that is something totally different.

David

someone said...

is it illegal to read a memory stick? cuz some hacker did that to me once and found out my real name through a folder i had on it.

someone said...

also for some reason the east lobby is the only one that works

Nymo said...

Some interesting thoughts there, Jaffe.

What I'm seeing is that game publishers want to focus on addictive gameplay rather than great story-telling.

The bigger names out there are mainly those multiplayer games thats sparse on story are taking the cake, while the blockbuster, highly-rated games which had the great story and overall movie quality, like Beyond Good And Evil, are sadly left with crumbs.

Maybe gamers aren't into "playing movies" anymore.
Last I checked, many gamers out there want to skip cinematics...


now, How long until this hits Kotaku or something? hah...

AJ said...

Hey David. I recommend you read this interesting blog post over at the "Magical Wasteland" blog that actually has an argument for the other side of the coin

http://www.magicalwasteland.com/2008/02/in_defense_of_the_meaningless.htm

I'm not saying that I'm taking a side but for arguments sake it's interesting to read about a different perspective.

Is it really a pinacle within the gaming industry to have the gaming medium comparable to that of the movie industry?

Theo said...

Well put Dave... on a side note- since i cant find a place to contact you- I have been meaning to ask if you needed any help with your blog sites design (banner, maybe?). Im a graphic designer (who is always looking to do work for the people i look up to, regardless on if its rappers, actors or game creators :)

I also live near the Incog studio & would love to talk one day, even if its about nothing in particular.

Check out my site myspace.com/trigga1 if your interested, i understand if your too busy. I know yall got big things poppin off over at ESP i can feel it :)

- Theo

Theo said...

PS. David, its Theo again. I was declared a winner of the Warhawk Insignia Contest a week ago so as you can tell, im very interested in Incognito but even more so interested in ESP & would be dedicated to putting my talent towards helping you, incognito, or even ESP to the fullest if it came to supporting either or all of you. Let me know if theres anything i can do to help :)

- Theo

Charles said...

Interesting thoughts there, but whilst I appreciate cutscenes and fantastic art direction, the gameplay is ultimately the bottom line. Of course videogames for me are an art form, but of a different nature to movies, paintings or books (Heck, it could be all those combined!).

The game that made me see games as an art form was called Deus Ex (If you've never played it Dave, you REALLY should, not the easiest game to get into though), it featured not only great characters and storytelling, but also themes and motifs ran throughout the game, of rebelling against the system, stepping away from technology, and all sorts of things. That for me is art.

But of course in recent times games have been praised for it, Ratchet and Clank : Tools Of Destruction (We didn't have the 'Future' in the UK version) has often been compared to a Pixar Movie. Now that's gotta count for something. :)

spencer wasden said...

"I'm not really a fan of game story."... "The first big secret is, the bad news is for storytellers is that nobody cares about your stupid story... no matter how detailed or lovingly you craft it." - Kevin Levine.

As said before - Gameplay is king.

“Games that are character and story centric are the only games that interest me.” - Cory Barlog

This is just one of the problems today. Why do you guys fight yourselves tooth and nail to try and enjoy liking games? Yes, you enjoy the occasional game, but did you finish them? Bioshock, Eternal Darkness...Ratchet??? But it doesn't matter because you got the gist of them? C'mon.

When was the last time you made a post as passionate about a game as this:

www.cliffyb.com

2007-09-08 | final thoughts on bioshock

But this? This gets you going and always has...sounds like you care more about the lifestyle than the medium.

Obviously this wasn't your first choice of medium. You guys are still chasing that dream.

“Hell, ONE DAY games may very well be the next great medium.”

To some of us this already is the next great medium. Just like art. The question isn't - is it art - but is it art to you?

I'm sorry Dave, I've enjoyed the last three years I've visited your blog, but it's getting tired now.

Spencer

da criminal said...

Spencer, maybe it's getting tired because you have gotten too tired to read the post :)

This post is NOT about are story games worth making or are story games art. I make it clear towards the top when speaking about passage that clearly they are.

It's about the business side of story games and how folks who make more artistic games automatically assume- or want to assume (in my mind)- the same benefits as our story telling cohorts in other media BUT since the audiences in games seem to be much more interested in other types of games, that that desire- that Cory speaks about in his blog- may never come to pass.

David

ps. as for me being passionate about a game, scroll one post down to see how much I'm over the moon for GOD OF WAR: CHAINS OF OLYMPUS.

da criminal said...

pps. and yes I did finish Ratchet and loved it. And you may have noticed, I've gotten OUT of the games-as-storytelling devices because I love making and playing games as games.

davis said...

da criminal:

In response to your latest blog post, I believe a good director can make a superficially appealing movie that will keep the audience in their seats long enough for the first viewing and leave them with a feeling of accomplishment--

While a great director can not only make a visually appealing movie that keeps the audience in their seats for the first viewing, but also create a movie that tells a story so deep and so "worth it", that they want to see it all over again, just so that they can make sure they picked up every element.

I believe that TMB had a lot of those kinds of stories. Also, I believe that Sweet Tooth/Roadkill/Yellow Jacket and Grasshopper's stories all have a chance to get to that point.

Example? Pan's Labyrinth. Donnie Darko. American Psycho.

davis said...

To amend that that last comment:

So if you have a game publisher giving you the chance to publish your game anyways-- just find a way to layer your game with that theme or story.

Through cinematics, through voice-overs, through gameplay... there's many different ways to tell that story.

spencer wasden said...

Yes I am tired...trying to hang in there. ;)

“About the day when we can talk about our games with the same passion and intellect as movie makers discussing their art, when we can talk about our games as more than just games but as something more...meaningful!”

This is what I don't get. More than just games?

Just remember when you were a kid watching Indy for this first time. That is happening all over the world with Halos, Elder Scrolls and MGS etc.

I guess what my point was/is that when these kids get a chance and already have the passion that you/Cory do towards movies. Then we'll see some real magic in games. THEN we will have the strong creative visionary that will get the treatment that has been talked about.

marcoco said...

Hey Dave, I've been reading your blog for a long time but it's only my first comment here. I felt like I had to say something.

First of all, im french so my english is not perfect. (as long as you understand)

Ok so im 30 years old and I've been playing games since Coleco Vision. I've had pretty much all the console out there. I've always been passionate about videogames. Same goes for movies and art. Im a graphic designer.

So ya, I totally agree with what you're saying. I feel like games should be conscidered as an art at least equal to movies. It's pretty much the same bases. I know that some great game directors (including you) could make movies. You guys already have the experience. Anyways, that's not what pushed me to reply today.

The reason for my post is that I was REALLY surprised by the comments of most gamers here. Some people skips cutscenes? Why?? I mean, I really need a good story to keep me playing. GOW had one superb story. I think that story/cinematics is one major reason I feel immersed in a videogame. It's the major key to feel emotions in a game.

Of course the gameplay is important. It's a videogame afterall. But I dont care throwing a bad guy through the window if I dont feel something for him.

I was just really surprised how people here didn't matter that much about it. Hell, Uncharted was so addictive coz of the story and movie-like cutscnenes. It was pretty much like a movie.

For me, in videogames, immersion is the most important thing. And the art of story and the art of the way you're showing your environement is the key. No doubt.. (I dont even know if I make sense...am I out of it?)

spencer wasden said...

Well since I'm tired and can't sleep. I have one more question for you...

Why haven't you mentioned anything about Scott being Client#9 !?!

Give him our best wishes :)

http://aycu07.webshots.com/image/45886/2001054631732262986_rs.jpg

Sorry that's the best Paint could do...

Peter Park said...

Hi, first comment here. :)

I seemed to have forgotten all those times when my friends were actually very surprised to see me watching intro and cutscenes while playing games. (I even recorded them for viewing later.) To them, game was about gameplay. It's not about story or message... game was a "product" as you said.

But thinking about what "videogame" is--a glorified digital version of conventional sports, card, or other analog games--maybe they're right about it. Maybe games should be about gameplay. Casual games, in that sense, is the purest form of today's games.

Maybe we should start looking into really telling "interactive story", not merely attaching story to games. (This, I think, goes only as far as to giving a sense of conformity of player actions in game, but not much more.) I think through interactive storytelling, artists, or artistic side of developers can really shine.

timetabletwist said...

Excellent write up Dave.

I see where Cory is coming from, but I think it's getting tiring hearing the comparisons between games and film. It's like trying to compare books to music, movies to music, books to games, ect. They are simply different mediums. Games are not film. A director in a film is not the same as being a director in a game. Programmers are arguably much more important then a director. Working with film, which uses real life, and working with code and triangles are two different things. A great vision doesn't mean shit if there isn't a solid team to back it up. While you can put out a cheap movie (a la Pulp Fiction) that has great writing, directing, scenes, ect. with a small team you can't do the same with games. You have to have that deep and talented team that can translate what the director is coming up with. In the end, I think Cory is putting a bit too much importance on his role. It's understandable when you are in that position. But this quote: "Me and [Eric Williams] basically built Kratos on God of War I. We established all the bosses; the way that the whole game felt; what God of War's gameplay from a navigation, combat and platforming perspective felt like." neglects the artists, programmers, and hell, even you when thinking about the final result. He only saw his work in animation and combat.

So while I think games could use more narrative and artistry I think that the importance of directors in the games field, neglecting the current profits on such games, is not nearly as big as movies.

da criminal said...

timetable:

I agree and disagree. It depends on the game, and that was my point. Some games are ALL about the talent of the coding team and what they bring to the table. Other games may not be technical marvels but they are marvels of design and/or interactive storytelling. My main point is that the story based game directors are not making games that bring in the same cash as other games that can be made for much less money and do not require a key man to bring story and emotion to the table....that said, I LOVE story based games and they are one of my fave types of games...I'm just talking pure business...

as for my contributions to GOD OF WAR, well I'm pretty secure in what I brought to the table. But Cory is right in that without him, Medhi, Eric, Richard, Derek and a handful of others who were able to take my vision for what I wanted Kratos to be and EXECUTE it (something I can not do) then the game would have been much more story and puzzle heavy and the combat an afterthought. The game originally started out with a desire to have bloody brutal animations for combat but with the combat depth of a Zelda or Medieval game :)....And I woulda been happy with that! But I am thrilled the game go SO MUCH BETTER because of what those guys brought to the table....

spencer wasden said...

We'll Dave I'm starting to understand, but maybe this is a tad too much for your reader demographic?

:)

Man, insomnia sucks. Promise you won't hear from me again!

davis said...

timetable:


Just because a game isn't a film, doesn't mean you can't convey a great story to go along with it.

Ever heard that a picture is worth a thousand words?

Imagine now a game. It's all about direction and finding a way to convey that story.

davis =dumbass said...

Thanks Davis for that intriguing insight.

And what's this picture is worth a thousand words you speak of? Quite mind boggling...

- timetabletwist

Anonymous said...

So are you saying that all these designers are a few steps back from where you are Mr. Jaffe?

- old greg

old greg said...

forgot my sig.

da criminal said...

Greg- not sure what you mean.

As designers? Certainly not.

In terms of this particular philosophy about the game business? Well, all I can say is I used to be in their camp, now I am in another camp. Doesn't mean I am steps ahead, just in a different camp.

David

old greg said...

That makes sense. I hope you and Cory do well on your next projects.

b.t.w. is it Kate Beckensale you like?

No disrespect Mr. Jaffe but I just want to let you know shes almost as pretty as your wife. And thats sincere!

0ld greG

timetabletwist said...

Dave:

Thanks for the reply.

I see where you are coming from. I'm not trying to say that game directors and story in games aren't important, neglecting the currect financial aspects of that. I'm trying to say that to compare to movie directors and game directors doesn't work. That was my whole point, I just tend to go too deep into my explanations which makes them turn out to be not as I intend. Well, maybe they are what I intend, they just aren't focused.

All I'm saying is that to say that a game director=a movie director, which is the impression I got from Cory's interview, is not a valid statement in my opinion.

All of the God of War team deserves credit. It, and it's sequal, are amazing games.

Sandor said...

Man, that passage game got me all sad.

bitter tooth said...

Thanks for directing me to Passage.

Sometimes the simplest things bring out the greatest emotions.

Good day to you, sir.

Robert

davis said...

Sorry, timetable, I misread your msg, I must've scrolled through and thought it ended after the last few lines.

No need for name-calling, though.

Jutah_f8 said...

"without The Dyaks or Barlogs or Levine’s, those games (GOD OF WAR II, ETERNAL DARKNESS, BIOSHOCK) would not be what they are."

-because of the 'passion' those guys brought to their specific title.

"... the vast majority of the audience really does not care. They want Smash Bros., and Halo3, and Grand Turismo, and Call of Duty 4 and Guitar Hero and Wii Sports. "

-Unfortunately, there's only a hand full of gamers/video game consumers who care about who makes their favorite games - as long as they keep releasing sequels and they're good, most people don't care :-/ Even if the product isn't good, people will continue to buy it because X Product has been established already. Hell, back in the day, I bought TM3 because I loved the previous ones... it was trash compared to what had come before it. I later found out that it hadn't come from the original team.


Good Post!

-Oscar

Anonymous said...

I think it might be good to not sell all games for the same price as they are not worth the same. I would pay £1000 for FFXIII (yes really, but only if it's good of course), £100 for god of war 3 (if it's good), and £1 for mario (actually wouldn't play it but just hypothetically what it's worth). What do you think about that? It's impossible to really find out what games most profitable price point is... I suppose you'll say that proves your point that I don't care who directs FFXIII or gow3, but if it never had a good director it wouldn't have gained popularity to begin with and will get bad reviews and sell less. People will not buy junk because of a good brand.

"The PROBLEM tho with the argument is that the vast majority of the audience really does not care. They want Smash Bros., and Halo3, and Grand Turismo, and Call of Duty 4 and Guitar Hero and Wii Sports."

I really disagree with you. Yes there is a big market for cheaper games like on the DS, but do the games you mentioned not also need good directors and cost money? You can't deny that games like god of war are succesful and necessitate a good director. It's a different audience, and you can't saturate the market with just Brain Training and sports or have bad directors. Don't think of the video game industry as an analogue of the film industry but the television industry. Just because American Idol and the superbowl are the most popular shows doesn't mean Lost doesn't need a good director. All types of games need to co-exist, few people are happy to just play one genre except maybe WoW addicts. If you would choose to make cheap games that sell better than good games that are profitable, then I've lost all respect for you. Don't let the success of those games fool you into thinking there aren't thousands of failures there too and guitar hero instead of having an expensive director has expensive music because that's what it needs.

MrDaBucket said...

I wish I had Ico.
I agree with you completely about Carnival Games being a higher priority to a publisher than God of War of Final Fantasy. But, I still think that it's a sad fact.
It's basically what happened to TV and radio, where only content that was the easiest to distribute while still reaching lightly to a broad casual market was chosen, after a while.
I dont hate small games. I love PixelJunk Monsters, but I'd rather see quality small games that sorta take risks like Calling All Cars get more public recognition than a safe-somewhat-generic title like Wii Sports.

Da Dark Knight said...

Dave do you think that the next God of War game will be any good since it seems like alot of the key members are gone. For example how Devil May Cry 2 sucked compared to the first one when they had a new team work on it. When God of War II came I was not that worried about it since Cory was in charge of the game and he was co creator of the characters. Now I have doubts since you Cory and Eric Williams who he said help him build kratos is gone. I hope it does not end up like the X-men franchise after the director who directed the first two left.

-rallyRAYS- said...

Hey Mr. J,

Intersting post, and this is something we experience alot in our business. In the end, we are making a product for a corporation or publisher, and they pay us to complete their project. If you feel like you are the rock star that "made" the game... good for you, but you can't expect someone to shower you with Bentley's and bitches(just a joke). If you feel like you are not receiving fair compensation for your contributions... then your like everyone else in this world. Rather than demand more money & get angry, use situations like this to inspire you, and start your own company.

I'm not bashing anyone, it's important people remember this is a business, and they hired us to do a job.


-rallyRAYS-

Surfninja said...

I agree with you, David, in that ultimately, all a success is seen as in the business is if the game made any money. It is a business first and foremost after all, and if the people who put up the money to create a game don't get the profit they expected (even if it's a game with a great, dense story) they are going to be less likely to fund a similar project next time than X game that raked in money hand over fist over its budget (even if X game is just a collection of mini-games). That's just business. In this sense, even if it was a 10 game, directors of these "deep story" games shouldn't get any kind of special treatment from those putting up the money. You can get all the praise and respect in the world from game creators, critics, and players alike for your game, but if profits aren't as bountiful as praise in comparison to profits of other games in the market, companies are just not going to jump through hoops to keep you on board to make your next game. And who the hell is anyone to whine about it? What happened to being grateful to even have the opportunity to make these games? You guys might not be making SPIELBERG money, but I'm willing to bet you're not doing so badly either. If you wanted to be treated like Spielberg, then go out and fucking make movies. Game creation is an entirely different playing field.

That's not to say that there's not a market out there for games with great, dense stories. On the contrary, even if it's a game like Ico that doesn't sell well, it's in part due to games like these that the very business of games garners so much excitement from its core base of players who dump loads of money every year onto these products out of the love of the medium. Sure cheap mini-game collections and franchise-based games rake in money, but could you imagine a market where it's only these kinds of games that are out there? I sincerely doubt the games business would be as healthy as it is today without games like Bioshock, God of War 2, Shadow of the Colossus, and Eternal Darkness out there forwarding the medium in unique ways that don't sell themselves short for the sake of the bottom dollar. If the 2600 era taught us anything it's that flooding the market with only cheaply made games could very well END the industry. It's only because these 10-rated games are out there that cheaply produced games are even given the platform on which to bank on an impulse buy. And symbiotically, it's shitty franchise games and cheaply produced games that help to fund the 10-rated games. So in this way they're both equally important to the growth of the industry.

And if your 5 star game pulls high profits, there's nothing wrong with that either.

Also, on the "games as art" argument, I think all games can be seen as art as art to me is just interpreted intentional or unintentional expression. But that's a whole 'nother topic.

jason said...

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check it out ..

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Anonymous said...

That's quite a refreshing view you have David. I have to agree with you on a lot of it as well. Of course I have always thought that QA should get more money thrown at them, because they are reponsible for making the game playable and enjoyable, but I digress...I have never bought a game (yet) because it had a certain director...if that was the case why would I choose to buy God of War 2? Cory is not David, so then Cory would have lost (BTW, nobody loses by playing either GOW). Shit, I feel that the director/producer/etc. being a public figure can hinder the game too. Take Assassins Creed for example. I wanted to have my way with Jade Raymond, not buy her game. The game looked great, but at no time when they had her speaking about it did I think to myself, this game would never have been possible without her. Obviously there are creative forces to be taken into account, but the fact remains that it takes teams of people to make the game happen and Cory is no more important to the process than the programers, testers, etc. He is simply another peice of the pie.

Sandor said...

Oh by the way David, what do you think of the new Indiana Jones poster?

da criminal said...

I have to disagree when you say Cory- or any key creative on a title- is just another cog in the wheel. Not true at all. There are usually 1-5 key peeps on a team that- while EVERYONE is busting ass- are the ones who really define the spirit and soul of that game. Cory certainly was one of those people on both GOW I and II.

My point is NOT that game directors of story games are not ultra important. They ARE. My point is that story games- on the food chain of game genres that are hits- story games are at the bottom and thus, the game directors of these games should not expect to be negotiated with anywhere close to how a successful movie maker is.

MrDaBucket said...

Yeah, the creative direction is the soul of a game and is basically the only factor that can push a game into the potential "piece of art" realm.
With almost every great title that has been recognized over the year, there is usually at least one person who was a key player in pushing that game beyond a way to make a publisher money into making a good product.

If I had my way in this world, creative direction on games would be payed much more. Than again, what publisher would prioritize making a good experience for consumers over making what could sell a lot. Such priorities in big publishers is the reason why I barely buy games made by EA, Ubisoft, Activision and other big names. There big games are usually big games solely on a name rather than making quality titles.
.....I'm not sure if I'm on topic anymore. :|

P.S. To "someone": Yeah.......btw, I recall seeing that person and them cheating. None of that shutting down your PSP stuff. Twisted Metal Head On for PSP is a REALLY weird game to play online, solely because the same 50 people that have been on since launch are still the only 50 people playing.
I do believe that they only play TM on PSP.....no other games.
I occasionally go online, but the only TMing I'm doing is on PS3(or 2, I guess....) with TMHOETE and TMBlack.

greekdude247 said...

I think this post should have been a video(or shorter). I mean I like reading but... ya know, this is really long. But that's just my opinion. Just want to...throw it out there.

timetabletwist said...

Davis:
I didn't write that insulting message. Apparently someone thought it would be funny if they acted as though they were me. Oh well.

This message, and ones titled "Excellent write up Dave" and "Dave:" were the only ones I wrote.

As long as I am here, I'll reply, although I think you understand what I mean now. I agree that story and the creative side of games are important. I just do not think that should be comparisons made between the mediums of art that are games and film. They are two entirely different beasts.

jason said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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Luke MacFarlane said...

I see exactly where you're coming from. I would say 90% (made up) of the time people buy games it's because of the name, the character recognition, or the fact that it's based off of one of there favorite most recent movies i.e transformers.

And while the game directer really doesn't have anything to do with any of those aspects, they do bring something to the table. Take a look at Kojima, or Miyamoto. If either of those people left there franchises, I think the game quality would take a huge plummet. Don't get me wrong, the games would still sell, but there would be less and less sales as time went on and those games lost their charm and their soul.

I noticed the same thing I speak of happened with God of War II after you left. While I do agree that corey is a great director, I was left wanting in God of War II (and not just because of the ending).

The game just didn't have that... effect that the first game had on me, and not because the experience was so familiar, but I think because it in all honesty. Lacked the substance of the first God of War.

I'm not really sure how to explain it, but when I played the first God of War it was an amazing experience. Probably the most epic i've ever had in a video game. The brutality of the animation, the games art style, the magic, the enemy designs. The story just drew me in and impressed me at every turn in how it tied the elements of greek mythology and this amazingly, disturbed, brutal, pissed off, fuck you character. The boss fights are the three most epic boss fights i've ever played. The game literally made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I know you didn't want to turn into that God of War guy, but I really think that if you had stuck with the series that your talent would've really shined through and brought the series even more recognition. After finishing the God of War trilogy I really think you would've had more freedom to choose what you wanted to do.

I'm actually really worried about God of War 3. I think everyone is expecting this amazing game, that just blows people's minds through the back of their skulls, and now that we've lost 2 game directors to this franchise, I think the finale will truly suffer as a consequence. I feel the game will have lost most of it's soul, simply borrowing from games past, asking you guys (you and cory) for story idea's, and then just throwing some craptacular story into the game.

Aside from all of my grim predictions, I would really like to see game designers allowed much more freedom in what they produce. Instead of worrying about top dollar. There are still gamers out there who don't just want to play Madden 2012 every year. I think there is a hardcore gaming audience out there that is really thirsting for another title like God of War to come along, and set the standards for this generation of gaming.

Derek Daniels said...

Dave,

Why do you think story driven games are the ones that have 'stars' that rise to the top of the popularity game? Such as yourself, Cory, Dyack, Levine, Kojima, etc?

While games that are obviously outselling such as Guitar Hero, Carnival Games, Peggle, etc don't have any representation? Maybe there is some guy like yourself who is pumping out one casual hit after another but I've never heard of this mysterious person.

Sifu Peng said...

Just being nitpicky here, but I think you've made this error a couple times: Passage is not a flash game. It was coded in C++ w/ SDL.

Not that it couldn't be done in flash, but there's a little bit of programmer's pride at stake.

da criminal said...

Derek,

Hey dude!

Maybe it's because there is more to talk about from a media standpoint with story based games. It makes much better copy to write about how Kratos is a reflection of myself and the struggles I went thru while making the game...or how with Dennis Dayak, he wants to appeal on multiple levels to various audiences via his story....but to write about the making of Carnival games is prob not as interesting, you know?

But maybe not...I mean, hell, if I had designed GUITAR HERO, I woulda been out there telling stories of how I watched arena rock as a kid, sneaking out of the house to see a STYX show or JOURNEY and so wanted to be on that stage but never had the talent, and NOW I had a way to live my dream, blah, blah blah :)

Maybe alot of it has to do with sheer ego. I don't mean being an ass hole ego, but ego from a standpoint of wanting to feel what you do is important and meaningful. I used to really care about this and had some inner desire to feel the work I did 'mattered' at the same level as a great film...in the end, it was all ego driven bullshit...i really like making games that make people smile and give people an escape and that is enough for me now. But perhaps you hear about the story based games because games is a real easy medium to get 'famous' in because all you gotta do is rip off movie making speak, for the most part, and the press flocks to you like you have something worth saying. For me anyway, I realized I really don't have that much to say besides the fact that I just want to entertain people and make them happy.

Does NOT mean those other story directors do NOT have great things to say and are not true artists.

Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

tldr;

Jackred666 said...

Only if Twisted Metal was a movie.

NO FEAR said...

I just don't have time to read throu this deep discussion right now, Look like its worth coming back to though.

I just manted to say the GoW CoO PS3 theme is pretty bas ass. One of the best Ive seen yet.

As I stated to load my shooter to game with my clan I had to scream...I Am THE GOD oF WAR!
My kid stud up and said This is madness!
Madnes you say...This...Isn't SOCOM!!! and I kicked my kid down the stars...well not really but she made a good show of it.

Anyways love the thene. It rocks the tommy knockers off my clockers.

Isak said...

no fear:

Couldn't agree more. How ever the PSP theme didn't quite do it for me.

David:

A nice input and a worthwhile side note after reading Cory's interview. There's always two side of the coin...

ben holland said...

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but keep the faith in what your doing. I love games like God of war, Ico, final fantasy, shadow of collosus- they stay with me and affect me as much as films or books I love. Fuck the big money markets, its better to really affect the few than give the majority a bland fest soon to be forgotten for the sake of pleasing the suits. I really hope you keep making inspired games- they truly work as well as you hoped.
Many thanks for your work
ben

da criminal said...

Ben- hey thanks for the kind words!

Just to reiterate, this post was more about the biz of the situation. I still love story games tons as well and now that I've had a nice break from them, can see myself getting back to them one day. But for now, we're focused on games that are more mechanics based...but those are- to me- inspired as well as they are things that me and the team really really wanna play!

David

HairyAsHell said...

Hi Dave,

Interesting post! I quite agree with you that although a director with a vision is very crucial in making a game successful, there's always those people behind the scenes who contribute to bringing the directors vision to life.

I believe, a person can have a great idea/vision, but if its not executed properly or its presentation sucks, then no matter how original or innovative the idea is, it wont matter and no one will give a crap! So yeah, in terms of games I believe the team PLUS the director plays a big role in how the final "product" turns out to be. So it really doesnt justify a publisher to actually go arms lengths to douse just the director with cash. However, I do believe that the publisher should try their best to keep the team intact if they are to have another cash cow to milk. What do ya think? :)

P.S - Your blog has always been entertaining and your work has always been inspirational

lildavey said...

Mr. Jaffe,

Your posts are always a pleasure to read even if I don't always agree with their content. You are clearly passionate about games and that makes your posts worthwhile.

Anyway, this reminds me of a conversation I was having the other day. I work in the industry as well, though I'm based in Japan. I'm not entirely sure how the teams are structured and individual roles broken down in your neck of the woods, but here the director is in charge of maintaining an overall vision for the game and keeping the team motivated and on track. The producer is in charge of financial planning, scheduling, and - most importantly - promotion.

The way I see it, if a game sells well or fails to sell, it is the producer who should be given accolades or punished. The director, for his or her part, should be responsible for the critical reception a game garners. What happens too often, though, is that producers are so firmly politically entrenched in a company that, when a game gets good reviews (good director) but doesn't sell well (bad producer), the director gets the shaft and the producer walks away unscathed.

If a director makes good games that get good reveiws and is well received by gamers in the know (What do I mean by this phrase? Let's use movies as an example. Let's say person A loves Kurosawa and Bergman movies and has written dissertations on film theory while person B can't get enough Larry the Cable Guy movies. Both can say they're movie buffs, but only person A is "in the know". An elitist way of thinking, sure, but practical nonetheless.), that director should be rewarded. If a game sells well, the producer should be rewarded.

Maybe this wouldn't work in the west where the roles may be a bit different (or are they? you tell me!).

Thanks for listening to me ramble and keep up the good work!

Davidian said...

I believe games with addictive gameplay + a good, immersive story are the ones that sell the most in the end. I think its obvious that a good story gives almost everyone more of an incentive to buy a game, so if you combine a good story with good gameplay you get a game that should sell far better than one with a shallow story and good gameplay.

You said Game Developers need to be surrounded by a really skilled team in order for them to make a really good game, but that could also be said of movie directors in order for them to make a really good movie. Certainly if the actors are terrible in a move its not going to sell much regardless of how good the story is/director.

I have to agree with Cory. Game Directors have a role thats a lot similar to Move Directors so they probaby should be treated the sameway. They both have a huge role in determining how successful the game/movie is but there's also a lot of other things that determine the success as well for both..

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