GDC: Chris Hecker (spy party) rants about sameness in games. It's your fault.

Nov 10, 2010
34,178
0
0
Atlanta GA
#1
http://kotaku.com/5892030/spy-party...s-and-developers-for-lack-of-variety-in-games

Kirk Hamilton said:
Why are so many games just copies of past games? Who is responsible for this state of affairs? Does the industry need more variety to survive?

At the "Game Developers' Rant" session at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Spy Party developer Chris Hecker made a call for more variety in games. The rants session is a GDC tradition; it's a bit tongue-and-cheek, designed as a way to let game developers curse and blow off steam about the various aspects of the industry that are bothering them.

The game industry needs to be creating more varied games, Hecker said, and the staleness is the result of what he called "the dysfunctional three-way." That three-way is made up of developers, players, and the press. (Or, according to Hecker's slides, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy). He then addressed each group individually.

The core problem with players, he said, is that they buy, play, anticipate, and talk about the same games over and over again. He described visiting a thread at the website Quarter to Eight in which posters were talking about the Kickstarter funding opportunities granted to Double Fine's Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert. The thread was asking what other games people would like to see funded in this way, and all of the games suggested, Hecker said, were sequels.

There is an imbalance in the press between the amount of attention granted to pre-release games and the amount of criticism they get after the fact, Hecker said. Citing frame-by-frame breakdowns of a Borderlands 2 trailer, he made the point that writers are granular about their previews, but their reviews don't mention many large flaws.

He held up a review of Call of Duty: Black Ops which listed "The Good" and "The Bad" about the game. The review contained a large number of "The Good" elements, while the only "The Bad" listed was "short campaign."

"The bad wasn't that you bought the same fucking game six months previously?" Hecker asked. "I mean, what the fuck!"

Developers, who Hecker said he's been ranting at for years, are just "strip-mining the exact same plot of land deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into the earth."

The common denominator in the three groups, Hecker said, is an "appetite for sameness."

"We have this appetite for the same thing, over and over again." We don't just tolerate sameness, we actively seek it out. Hecker said that he really doesn't understand what appears to be a fundamental truth to the art form that he's chosen to work in. It makes him feel like he's slightly insane, he said, which is not a fun thing.

Hecker proposed solutions for each of the three groups. Players: Request and purchase true variety. "Variety is not a turret mission in the middle of an FPS." You feed your body varied food to keep it healthy, and we should play varied games in much the same way. To the press: Provide context and hold players and developers accountable. "You're the conscience of our industry."

And developers? Developers have been mining the same ideas for years now. If the old saying "Developers make games they want to play" is true, "Can you please want to play more varied games?"
Man I wish this was recorded. I do love how this man talks. He makes good points that aren't really unknown to the people... but I do agree that reviews tend to be balls and quite often presentation/immersion/ god rays tends to weight in heavier than gameplay/polish/fun/etc.

How many reviews out there noted that ME3 missions are much worse than ME2 in level and situation design? Do people really want to hold off waves of waves of stuff for an arbitrary amount of time in 2012 in single player? How many reviews docked points that 'their shepard' from ME1 can't get their face right?

And that kickstarter thingie... wasn't there a thread on gaf with similar responses?

Japanese games suck.

Western games suck.

bah.

*goes back to play more ME3*
 
Jun 26, 2008
39,766
1
0
#2
The thread was asking what other games people would like to see funded in this way, and all of the games suggested, Hecker said, were sequels.
Maybe because asking for a sequel is easier than writing a whole design doc yourself?
 
Jul 5, 2011
701
0
0
twitch.tv
#3
I can see where he's coming. When people are asked about what games they're most looking forward to, 9 times out of 10 it's a sequel. When they're not asked, gamers seek out a new version of X classic. Even the press are content with giving high grades to games based on production values alone.

I would rather see gamers say something like "I'm looking forward to what's next from From Software, Patrice Désilets, or Frictional Games."
 
Feb 24, 2011
4,312
0
0
28
#4
I get what he's saying about the players bit, I guess. But I'll seek out what I find fun. If what I find fun happens to be a sequel or something similar, then that's what I'll seek out. Pretty much the long and short of it for me. Sorry, Hecker.
 

Htown

STOP SHITTING ON MY MOTHER'S HEADSTONE
Feb 19, 2008
44,017
0
0
#5
There is an imbalance in the press between the amount of attention granted to pre-release games and the amount of criticism they get after the fact, Hecker said. Citing frame-by-frame breakdowns of a Borderlands 2 trailer, he made the point that writers are granular about their previews, but their reviews don't mention many large flaws.
Oh my god he's fucking on point right here.
 
Jun 21, 2009
517
0
0
#6
Isn't this how markets are supposed to work? Consumers spend money on the things they want.

This sounds like he's trying to paint some conspiracy where Devs and the gaming media conspire to make sure consumers only want the same thing over and over again.

I have no doubt the media does influence consumer habits, but this sounds a little arrogant from him.
 
Jan 7, 2007
33,379
24
910
#7
Well, of course. People don't know what they want if it doesn't already exist. If they did, there wouldn't be any work for designers.

People do, however, know what they like. They often want more of what they like.
 

K.Jack

Knowledge is power, guard it well
Mar 10, 2007
24,188
0
1,010
#9
To the press: Provide context and hold players and developers accountable. "You're the conscience of our industry.
Can't hold players accountable because they need their clicks and subs. Can't hold developers accountable because they need the publisher's ad revenue.

If he's saying it's everyone's fault, I guess it all makes sense.
 
Nov 5, 2010
24,734
1
520
Australia
#12
I agree with a lot of what he says but don't have the same rage he has for the regurgitation the industry is becoming known for. I really enjoyed the campaign for Modern Warfare 3 and don't mind if it was more of an expansion pack than an entire new experience.

There is room for both.
 
Sep 21, 2010
27,716
0
640
videogames?
twitter.com
#14
For people who loves games, the ones they love the most are not so boring that they wouldn't want to play an improved version with new content (i.e. not the same game). Sequels are sometimes looked down on, but I think people miss the point. As people want videogames to be more centric on storylines/settings/etc this seems to be a bigger complaint (in other words paying too much attention to the title on the box).

Thousands of hours can be sank into multiplayer games which are older than 10 years at this point. I wonder why we are even pointing out that people who like Call of Duty's multiplayer are always getting the new expansion-like sequels.

Really, novelty is superficial.
 
Mar 20, 2011
3,392
0
0
#15
He's right.

Every time an actual innovative games comes along it's usually obscure and doesn't get much marketing.

Meanwhile, garbage like Mass Effect 3 get's 11/10 on every site.
 
May 16, 2009
14,928
0
0
#16
In contrast to a certain indie developer recently, Chris Hecker is actually a guy who gets to make this rant. I personally cannot wait to play Spy Party.
 
May 19, 2009
12,060
0
0
udivision.blogspot.com
#17
This would make sense if:
A) The "same game every year" games were selling poorly
or
B) Every new IP or game is perfect and cannot be improved, expanded upon, or made better with criticism/praise in mind.
or
C) Every new IP or game is innovate or different.
 
Nov 5, 2010
24,734
1
520
Australia
#18
In contrast to a certain indie developer recently, Chris Hecker is actually a guy who gets to make this rant. I personally cannot wait to play Spy Party.
The idea of the industry being stuck in an awkward three-way is a lot more reasonable than saying that modern Japanese games suck, I can see what Hecker is talking about since we seem to always be talking about the sticky situation that journalists are in with the people they judge paying their bills.

But yes Hecker has given us more reasons to listen than Fish so far, really looking forward to seeing how Spy Party plays.
 

Kai Dracon

Writing a dinosaur space opera symphony
Jun 7, 2004
19,552
0
0
44
Space is the Place
#19
For people who loves games, the ones they love the most are not so boring that they wouldn't want to play an improved version with new content (i.e. not the same game). Sequels are sometimes looked down on, but I think people miss the point. As people want videogames to be more centric on storylines/settings/etc this seems to be a bigger complaint (in other words paying too much attention to the title on the box).

Thousands of hours can be sank into multiplayer games which are older than 10 years at this point. I wonder why we are even pointing out that people who like Call of Duty's multiplayer are always getting the new expansion-like sequels.

Really, novelty is superficial.
He seems to not be considering that computer games are iterative, or at least they have been to this point. In part this is driven by technology. The technology of computer gaming is not mature and has continued to evolve rapidly for 30 years. There's a big draw in constantly improving the same basic game concepts.

From the perspective a creator, sameness may often be bad. From the perspective of the audience and/or customer, it may often be good.

However, I think his point can be understood better by moving laterally and observing that the games industry ruthlessly attempts to exploit what is popular even when that's NOT a productive enterprise. People buy each new Call of Duty because they're investing in the platform, to experience the next iteration of the ongoing game they want to play. That's fine. But the rest of the industry stumbles over itself desperately trying to say "LOOK! WE HAVE COD TOO! PLEASE BUY OUR GAME!"

And most of those CODalikes fail because the audience is already being served. It'd be like trying to start a mainstream sport called "Baseball II" which was just like baseball except with a few minor cosmetic and rulesheet differences. It wouldn't go anywhere. Baseball already has its audience.

In this sense, I think it is still the industry's fault for wasting so much time, talent, and money chasing blue birds that it is never going to catch. How many fresh games could have been funded these last five years, to see if another big thing might catch on, if millions hadn't gone to failed COD clones?

I'm not sure the food analogy is solid there at the end. Entertainment is a bit more subjective than the hard science of what someone needs in a survival sense.

However, his best point is about the gaming press. The press does a terrible job of emphasizing the things that it should be emphasizing. However, man alive, have I heard laments from a few writers in the gaming press. It is often the people at the top, editors and publishers, who dictate the state of gaming journalism. That "tough investigative reporting" people often ask for wouldn't be published even if it was performed and the writers know it. Publishers aren't going to encourage writers to draw attention to an innovative game because they just want to make sure their organization is doing a great job hyping Mass Effect 3.
 
Dec 6, 2008
14,958
0
0
#21
Well, of course. People don't know what they want if it doesn't already exist. If they did, there wouldn't be any work for designers.

People do, however, know what they like. They often want more of what they like.
Yep. It's not unreasonable to expect people to not want to fund something that they have very little knowledge about. Anything that isn't attached to something already in existence is highly experimental, and the risks associated with it has to be weighed before putting a lot of resources into it.

I don't think we can put very much blame on the consumer and media outlets when they only hear about a tiny fraction of game design proposals. We only see what the producers thinks we want to see, and they keep their work to their chests a lot tighter today than in years past. Whose fault is that exactly? It's complicated.
 

scy

Member
Jul 20, 2007
24,496
0
0
College Station, Tx
#23
I like how "sameness" means games that aren't fun. Not to say he doesn't bring up valid points but it always seems that this argument seems to allude to that point.

Also, who? Serious, I don't know the name nor Spy Party and I'm curious
.
 
#24
I was at this talk, and I understand where he's coming from.

Sure, everyone isn't a designer, but it isn't too hard to expect consumers of such a creative medium to go a little further than basic sequels.

I mean you don't like Wizardry because it's Wizardry, you like it because of things you do in it and you probably did not like each individual game in the series, either ,unless the series has complete homogeneity, at which point why don't you just play the old fucking games, anyway.

I don't think it's so hard to say I'd like to play a game about something that really interests you on a creative level... all people have at least some creativity.

To the people claiming they seek out what they find fu and will try out new ideas, well there aren't enough people who try out new types of games when they reach retail, so clearly you are in the minority.

I've disagreed with Chris before, and we talked about that, but I completely agreed with him today.
 
Aug 7, 2008
2,954
0
0
#26
Chris Hecker is really annoying.

But he's right here. Especially about reviewers not calling out flaws.

My brain keeps going back to the review that said Uncharted 3's shooting was "better than ever" even though it was broken.

I've noticed more and more lately that when I listen to podcasts and read reviews it's like two different games are being discussed. On podcasts I hear people complaining about Uncharted 3 aiming, in reviews I see it praised. In reviews I see RDR universally praised, in podcasts I hear that Mexico drags.
 

SapientWolf

Trucker Sexologist
Jul 4, 2004
35,737
0
0
#27
There's nothing inherently wrong with sequels. Software is iterative. The people that enjoyed a game are going to want something similar with more features and improvements.

The problem is when sequels are the only thing being made. Publishers are risk averse, and there's no guarantee that a new property will find an audience. Consumers don't want to get burned after spending $60 on a gamble. So they play it safe too.

The solution is using creative business models to mitigate the risk for the publisher and the consumer.
 
Jun 27, 2011
561
0
0
#28
Even if all reviewers (and their editors) grew spines overnight, threw away their bribes, stopped ranging all ratings for hyped games between 8 and 10, and a whole bunch of other stuff...

Reviews are only ONE part of the big-budget marketing machine. You can't damage hype that easily. Hype is what makes consumers want to buy, and makes developers want to get in on that audience.
 
Jun 11, 2004
3,846
0
0
Oakland, CA
#29
I can see where he's coming. When people are asked about what games they're most looking forward to, 9 times out of 10 it's a sequel. When they're not asked, gamers seek out a new version of X classic. Even the press are content with giving high grades to games based on production values alone.

I would rather see gamers say something like "I'm looking forward to what's next from From Software, Patrice Désilets, or Frictional Games."
That's not terribly different.

What I would like to see is people talking about what new experiences they want to have ("A game where you..."). Video games are cool because they provide new experiences and situations that are unlikely or impossible for us to experience (at least, in safety and on our own terms) in real life.

For many players, the desire for actual new experiences fades quickly and is replaced by the desire for familiarity - exercising already-mastered skills and being reminded of past enjoyment.
 

Thunderbear

Mawio Gawaxy iz da Wheeson hee pways games
May 10, 2006
3,364
0
0
#31
Yes it's our fault for liking the games that he doesn't. So tired of these stuck-up GDC people who think they know the truth and that everything is bad even though we had plenty of extremely entertaining and forward driving games over the last few years that people love and buy by the millions. Last fall leading up to Christmas was fantastic.

I don't think some people are ever going to be happy because they feel they need to be one of the very few who sees the truth but if everyone saw it they wouldn't be happy that they weren't one of the select few who did.

It's like with music, some purists only like small bands and complain about the music industry but when the band they like make it big, they aren't "cool" anymore.

Games are fun, and it's a huge industry that tonnes and tonnes of people love. Braid developer, Fez developer, this guy: get over yourselves.
 
Jun 17, 2004
4,703
0
0
#32
Maybe because asking for a sequel is easier than writing a whole design doc yourself?
You don't have to write a design doc to want something new. I absolutely agree with him, although his point is like ten (or a thousand) years old -- most people will always want more of the same.
 

Alx

Member
Jan 22, 2007
17,918
259
985
#33
Well, of course. People don't know what they want if it doesn't already exist. If they did, there wouldn't be any work for designers.
There's more to game design than having a vague idea of what a game does... and there's no reason why regular people shouldn't use their imagination when asked for new things.
I don't need to be a game designer to know I'd be interested in an action game about musketeers, or an ostrich racing game, or an ultimate frisbee motion game, or a deep diving simulation, or a team volleyball sport game, or a RTS where you control ant colonies,...
Having ideas and wishes is not hard, it's making them real that requires real work.
 

benny_a

extra source of jiggaflops
Apr 25, 2009
17,350
0
0
#34
I don't need to be a game designer to know I'd be interested in an action game about musketeers, or an ostrich racing game, or an ultimate frisbee motion game, or a deep diving simulation, or a team volleyball sport game, or a RTS where you control ant colonies,...
An ostrich racing game would still be another racing game. And if you rode the ostriches and you could hit your opponents it would just be Road Rash: Ostrich.

I doubt anyone except thatgamecompany came up with with an executable concept of Journey before they did.
And they were probably scared the whole way through if people would like it, as it's so different.

I have not read the QT3 thread with the game suggestions, but when I read the GAF version I saw a lot of old games that people wanted sequels of.
And there is quite a difference to wanting WASTELAND 2 vs. Call of Duty 9.
When people request sequels of such old games they want the feel of the old games, not necessarily the exact mechanics.

When I'm asked what my dream game is I would say Red Dead Redemption with more ambient events and more focus on treasure in a pirate setting made by Rockstar.
I wouldn't know if that would be a good game, but those are the parts I liked in that game and I want more of them and I like the pirate setting.

I agree in principle with the point of the Chris Hecker, but all that can be reasonable expected by a player is go and buy the games that break the mold.
 

subversus

I've done nothing with my life except eat and fap
Oct 26, 2009
24,268
0
0
#35
the harsh cold truth is: people don't know what they want but they want something fresh for sure. Since they don't know what they want they ask for sequels. But if someone offers them something GOOD and fresh they will be all over it.

I don't see what his problem is. People aren't supposed to propose ideas (even though it is good when they do). It's game designer's responsibility to propose them and implement them.
 
Jul 16, 2008
9,571
0
0
#38
Reviews are only ONE part of the big-budget marketing machine. You can't damage hype that easily. Hype is what makes consumers want to buy, and makes developers want to get in on that audience.
Yep, hype is a powerful thing. I remember back in 2007, despite not being a big fan of the series, I felt I needed Halo 3. Reviewers were going crazy over it, forum users were calling it the GOTY and I was there salivating over something I didn't care about a month before. Now I've got a collectors edition that I haven't even finished yet. It just wasn't my type of game, and despite knowing this the hype machine sucked me in, and spat me out sans $120. The same thing happened with Red Dead, but I was smart enough to return that instead of convincing myself that I was 'enjoying' it. Big titles need that whole pre-release hype mayhem, they have teams of people coordinating it months beforehand, and like you said reviews are just another gear in their machine.
 

MattKeil

BIGTIME TV MOGUL #2
Aug 4, 2004
16,222
1
1,410
#39
He's right.

Every time an actual innovative games comes along it's usually obscure and doesn't get much marketing.

Meanwhile, garbage like Mass Effect 3 get's 11/10 on every site.
Absurd hyperbole doesn't really advance the conversation much.

I hear what he's saying, but true innovation is rare and unusual not (just) because the market demands new and improved version of the same experiences over and over but because...true innovation is rare and unusual by definition.
 
Jan 27, 2005
17,175
0
1,155
36
South Carolina
#40
"We have this appetite for the same thing, over and over again." We don't just tolerate sameness, we actively seek it out. Hecker said that he really doesn't understand what appears to be a fundamental truth to the art form that he's chosen to work in. It makes him feel like he's slightly insane, he said, which is not a fun thing.
Yeah you do, Hecker. I know you're exaggerating for comic effect, but you totally understand why gamers want the same things over and over again. Among the reasons why:

- It's infinitely easier to know you want something in a game that you've already experienced in an earlier game.
- If you enjoyed playing a game, you will probably want to play another game that gives you a similarly enjoyable experience.
- Games cost money, and people don't want to spend money on games they are not sure will be worth their money.
- Most gamers do not care about the advancement of the medium or, indeed, the medium itself. They just want to pop in a game and have some fun.
- People generally find familiarity to be comforting.
- Gamers take what developers give them, and developers almost always play it as safe as possible because they want to make money.

And most of this holds true for other popular mediums, not just video games.

He's actually right.
But so what? He doesn't have any real answers. How do we get out of this situation? (My take: we don't.) "Developers, make more varied games!" "Gamers, demand more variety!" "Game journalists: develop backbone and behave professionally and and responsibly" Yeah, good luck with all that.

I guess because he's just ranting during a ranting session, he isn't required to have any answers, just complaints. Well okay, I like ranting. But I guess I don't know how else to respond to reading this stuff except to nitpick where he's wrong. And that makes me feel like an asshole since he's just ranting, not delivering a well-formulated argument.

...okay bye.
 
Nov 28, 2011
3,778
0
0
#43
He's right, but I don't see people changing their spending habits anytime soon. Part of the reason people keep buying sequels and remakes is because a lot of people only buy 2-3 games a year, so they just keep buying CoD because they know they like the product and won't completely waste their money.
 
Mar 1, 2011
3,995
0
525
#44
I agree with all the shit he said. Personally, I think a lot of media are afraid of being too harsh on a big title like a CoD or an Assassin's Creed simply because of publisher backlash, which is bullshit.
 
Dec 10, 2007
2,290
0
0
#46
I wish more people felt the way this guy does, on all sides dev/player/press. I actively seek out different and new kinds of experiences with games and really love that aspect of the medium. Video games have a lot of possibility. It'd be awesome if more money went into more variety and creative projects and then people actually bought 'em.

There's definitely room for sequels and specific games being improved, I'm personally a fan of that when it's done with really solid game play systems like Street Fighter 2 or Starcraft. But the industry, especially at the top, is way lopsided towards sameness.

I don't think there's really a solution, since I don't see devs/players/the press changing. It just kinda sucks. And personally it just means spending more time seeking out interesting, creative low budget/indie titles that don't get as much press.
 
Oct 31, 2011
3,908
0
0
#48
I really don't get the obseesion with new IP's, especially during this generation. Maybe if they meant a genre outside the norm, but a half of them will just end up being a FPS or TPS with a different setting and maybe co-op. Let's just look at some of the series that began this gen.

Dead Space
Gears
Bulletstorm
Resistance
Uncharted
Rage
Borderlands
Homefront
Army of Two
Mass Effect (yes I know I'm gonna get some flack for this one)
Bioshock
Left 4 Dead
Vanquish

Note: I'm not saying that these games play alike or anything like that, but what's the point of constantly clamoring for new IP's when there's a 50/50 chance that the devs are gonna play if safe and make a shooter.
 
Nov 13, 2006
2,813
0
0
www.squidi.net
#50
Every time an actual innovative games comes along it's usually obscure and doesn't get much marketing.
Another word for innovative is unrelatable. If you create an entirely new experience, how do you sell that to players who won't understand it easily? (See: any Akitoshi Kawazu game). Everybody wants innovative games, but they don't want to put in the effort to learn them.

I think you can see a bit of this in the way that people tend to like one or two games from a particular genre, but never grow to love the genre as a whole because their base understanding of the genre has such a small sample size.

World of Warcraft, for example, didn't translate into more MMO players because for a majority of the players, WoW was the first and only MMO they played - and they had trouble relating to other MMOs because they though WoW was the definition of the genre rather than a particularly polished outlier. Other examples include Final Fantasy Tactics fans disliking every other tactical game or people who won't hate JRPGs (but love Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VII).