Aug 23 2012 3:00pm

Gaming Roundup: Warren Spector Challenges Peers to Shift Industry Perspective

Gaming Roundup: Warren Spector Challenges Peers to Shift Industry Perspective

In an interview with Eurogamer earlier this week, Warren Spector—creator of such gaming classics as Deus Ex, System Shock, Thief, and (some of) the Ultima series—threw down the gauntlet to fellow developers, including Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney and id’s John Carmack, challenging them to shift the focus of the gaming medium from the easy aim-shoot-kill mechanic to (among other options) the considerably more difficult characterize-engage-sustain mechanic.

Eurogamer caught up to Spector at Gamescom this week, where he issued his open challenge: “I’ve been actively trying to shame some of my fellow developers, specifically John Carmack and Tim Sweeney. Can you imagine what games would look like if those two guys spent as much time working on non-combat AI as they do on rendering? Can you imagine what games we would have if John Carmack decided he wanted to create a believable character as opposed to a believable gun? I mean, oh my god! Those guys are way smarter than I am. I don’t know how to solve the problem, but they could figure it out.”

Spector goes on to attribute some of the issue to controller design and how that directs designer focus onto quick-twitch reactions, most obviously for aiming and shooting, as this is an easy and popular direction for game studios to focus on. “Trying [controllers] on a conversation is very hard in the extreme. It doesn’t map very well to pushing buttons. It’s not what we’re doing right now. I find it annoying where people don’t try to solve that problem. But I understand why. It’s a very hard problem to solve...where I am in my life and my career, I want to explore things like, what does it mean to have a brother? How do you form a family?”

Spector’s point is a good one, but the fatal flaw is, as always, the almighty dollar. Developers will build what the masses will play. Shooters built with any sort of minimal competence are almost automatically successful, especially those from specific established franchises. It’s harder to sell the majority of gamers on atmospheric, story-driven experiences—a fact Spector is aware of: “We focus a little bit too much on violence, but we all know how to do it. It’s easy. And a lot of players seem to like it. It isn’t all we can do and it certainly isn’t all we should do.”

One would, of course, hope that the majority gamers might diversify or mature their tastes enough to allow major mainstream developers some more room for experimentation, failure, and a departure from the status quo. But the financial realities of development are always in play. What are the options for a solution? Are there any? You tell us, dear readers.

In other gaming news this week, Rockstar teases us with new GTA V screenshots, the creators of Infinity Blade help you decide who to vote for, Mortal Kombat hits arcades once again, Okami returns, Diablo 3 gets fixed, and PopCap suffers massive layoffs.

  • The latest Mortal Kombat game could be making a return to arcades near... Japan.
  • In more news from across the Not-So-Narrow Sea, get acquainted with Gone Home to learn how abandoned, ruined Japanese homes inspired a video game.
  • If you’re racked with indecision in regards to the upcoming election... video games are here to help. Infinity Blade creators Chair Entertainment have released Vote!!! The Game, in which Obama and Romney duke it out as they vie for your support. So, make up your mind, or just beat politicians senseless—it’s a win-win!

  • In other Rockstar news, Max Payne 3 players will receive a free DLC next weekDisorganized Crime. In addition to including a new multiplayer map, the DLC has a neat little surprise for the Noir-hounds of the first two MP games—the option to play through the single player campaign in atmospheric black-and-white.
  • Those of you who were fans of the original Okami’s uniquely beautiful inked art style should take note: Okami HD is looking mighty impressive. The official reveal trailer (below) may have been better served focusing on the gameplay, rather than the played-out dialogue, but IGN offers a more gameplay-heavy trailer here.

  • Blizzard has released Diablo 3’s massive 1.0.4 update sooner than expected, and it contains fixes to many of the issues that plagued the game, including underpowered classes (*cough* Witch Doctors *cough*), a more sustainable endgame, better Legendary items, and a more reasonable Inferno difficulty level.
  • A final note—next week’s gaming roundup will delayed to the weekend (or slightly beyond) as we will be blogging live from PAX Prime in Seattle, bringing you the latest in the world of gaming as it happens. See you then!

If there are games you’d like us to cover or blogs you think we should be following for more news, please let us know @tdelucci or @pritpaulbains.

Stefan Jones
1. Stefan Jones
WHEW! I'm glad someone is advocating this. I get this feeling of dread when I see commercials for those grim, dystopian FPS games on TV.

I still boggle a bit when I see what Warren Spector has achieved and is up to. He was the editor of The Space Gamer when I was a pimply teen churning out RPG articles.
Stefan Jones
2. MidwestMedic
I would LOVE it if they ever get away from FPS. I am a suferer of occasional vertigo and FPS really give me an aweful headache. But, I also love a good story and, maybe it's a generalization, but it seems that FPS games really miss the mark on story telling. Here's hoping for the future.
Pat Hayes
3. SCTechSorceress
I have never had any interest at all in first-person shooters. I really enjoy playing games on my computer, but my choices are limited. When game designers talk about the popularity of the FPS, I always wonder if they realize they are talking only about a part of the game market. Yes, there will always be a supply of FPS fans, but they are not the only gamers. And since the gaming industry hardly tries, they do not know if they are missing an even larger market.
Stefan Jones
4. Megpie71
As the three commenters ahead of me have pointed out, it's really hard to demonstrate the demand for barbecue-flavoured potato chips when the only thing you can find on the store shelves is the choice of salt-and-vinegar, salt-and-vinegar, and maybe (by way of contrast) vinegar-and-salt. Or in other words, count me as another person who isn't a fan of FPS games, but who does count themselves as a gamer.

Looking on the bright side, I have to admit being faced with a wide range of games I'm not interested in on the store shelves does take a lot of the sting out of being broke.
Stefan Jones
5. mechazoidal
There's still plenty of innovation going on. It's just not on consoles, nor in the big-name developers. Just check out the recent IndieCade lists: 2011 Finalists, 2012 Nominees

I salute Warren for trying to get other big-name devs to push back against the current AAA trends, but with the money and effort involved, I don't see it changing anytime soon.
Stefan Jones
6. df2506
The PS3 game, Heavy Rain, is a GREAT example of what Warren is talking about in motion. A game thats like playing an actual movie. Very cool story & unique gameplay. Very interested in seeing what the developer does with Beyond: Two Souls.

Portal 1 & 2 are excellent examples too.

PSN is doing some unique downloadable games, like Papo & Yo, that take gaming beyond the usual.

There are some games out there that are more than just 'shoot 'em ups' but they don't get the same amount of attention that Call of Duty or Halo or God of War gets. Its too bad. I think gaming could have just as many genres as movies & TV do.
Brent Longstaff
7. Brentus
The new Deus Ex sold really well, so hopefully the industry will learn that there is a market for games with more depth of gameplay and interactivity.
Stefan Jones
8. Ulvskog
Just for a second, imagine if Bungie's first class A release "Oni" was such a hit that their next Game, Halo was put on the backburner while Bungie developed and refined all the game mechanics and multiplayer of the first game? We would be living in a radically different gaming eco-system now. Quite the alternate history scenario.
Stefan Jones
9. JoshuaD
While, I dolike story focused games (though not to the extent of Heavy Rain, which I found dull), I think some of the negativity regarding FPSs in the comments is a bit off,sure the market is dominated by miliatary shooters (though even then, there are a couple of titls with a decent attempt at story, but FPSs also gave us System Shock, Deus Ex, Thief, Ultima Underworld, Half-Life, Bioshok, etc., some of which Spector himself is responsible for. I think his point is that games should spend more time deleoping the sotry and atmosphere, and less time worrying about whether the gun mechanics are authentic.

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