Gabe Newell contradicts Kojima

In a new interview with Gamasutra, Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson talk about their business strategy — or rather, their complete lack of business strategy, at Valve:

Gabe Newell: … our focus is really much on building something that’s cool, and then we’ll worry about monetization.  So we’re not going to worry about that until later.  Premature monetization is the root of all evil.

The entire 4-page interview is pretty much about how Valve refuses to give its employees titles, responsibilities, and how they generally don’t care about market research, but rather focus on simply recruiting people they want to work with and make stuff they think is cool.  This stands in contrast to what Hideo Kojima said previously about his experience with pitching ideas and creating projects, which was this:

Hideo Kojima:  Right now, it’s very similar to movies: You need a lot of money. So rather than doing what you want, doing what you like, you must have a clear idea of marketing and sales. That’s what’s happening to us with FOX Engine; you do not need be an expert in programming to develop a game, but if you have a question, you still need an expert on-hand to provide an answer.

Isn’t it sad that while Kojima — who already has his own production company — talks about how he needs marketing research and sales pitches, instead of being able to do what he wants, Valve is boasting about their “do-what-you-want” strategy and making millions of dollars of profit as a result?  This is exactly the kind of thing I examined in my Metal Gear Online vs Team Fortress 2 series, which I suggest you take a look at after you’re finished with the Newell interview [here].

I’ll conclude with another choice quote from Valve’s leader:

GN: Well, I think, at the end of the day, the challenge is to find exciting, worthwhile projects for smart people to do.  And then whether you’re doing it as an individual, whether you’re doing it as a small indie developer, or you’re doing it as a larger group, if you can answer that question you’re probably going to be successful.

I nitpick the ones I love

Of course I haven’t been able to stop playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution for long enough to write a decent article here, but I do have time to complain about some small things that irritate me!

Camera shake
I’ve said this before, but shaking the camera is never a good idea — unless the character is being actively shaken, knocked around or hit — because the human body is sophisticated enough that it compensates for such movement automatically. When a person jogs, they don’t feel like they’re disoriented and unable to focus, so why should we feel that way in a first-person game?  It’s bad enough that I really wish Eidos would patch the game and get rid of it; it only subtracts from the experience and the immersion.

Tiny minimap “upgrade”
The minimap, found in the bottom-left corner of the screen, is a decent size when you first start playing the game, and I was perfectly happy with it.  In fact, I was so happy with it that decided to spend upgrade points on it so I could see more!  Little did I know that the upgrade would simply condense more information into the same tiny square, making it nearly impossible to discern what’s actually going on!  Instead of shrinking all the icons and making the minimap frustrating to use, the upgrade should have expanded the size of the minimap on the screen, which has plenty of room to spare.  The HUD in this game is very sleek already, so it wouldn’t be a problem.  Again, this is significant enough that I hope people complain and it gets patched.

Scarlett Johansson syndrome
Average woman in Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Back in the day, it used to be impossible to make a female character look sexy.  There just weren’t enough pixels and polygons to make it work.  But now it looks like every female in Deus Ex is a sister of Scarlett Johansson, and that’s kind of lame.  I mean, let’s be realistic, sexy people are only sexy because there are so many ugly people in the world;  it’s a number’s game, and I believe that ugliness is a part of making a gritty dystopian future feel bad.

Or, if you’re going to pack the entire world full of supermodels anyway, at least try to acknowledge it somehow.  Say that all the ugly people were killed as part of a eugenics movement or something.  I know fat people are harder to animate and there’s a certain satisfaction to successfully creating an attractive model, but this is a bit over the top.

The game is great though, and I think it deserves praise for many different things, especially it’s story.

DOTA 2 makes six Ukrainians millionaires

I used to play Defense of the Ancients when WarCraft III was still burgeoning, leveling up my heroes and mostly trying to figure out what to do next, buying items and playing against a static A.I. instead of other players.  With the release of StarCraft 2’s map editor I heard some strong rumblings from the Blizzard community about whether or not it would be able to handle DOTA maps, but I never knew how popular the map had become while I was gone.  Ever since the name ‘DOTA 2’ surfaced — now belonging to Valve instead of Blizzard! — I have been eagerly following it.

So I’ve been watching The International DOTA 2 Championships with some degree of shock.  How can the grand prize for this thing really be $1,000,000 USD?  I know that ‘eSports’ have been growing over the years, but we’re talking about an closed beta of a sequel to a very old WarCraft map, with no sponsorships.

My hat is off to Valve for putting this together and having the balls to steal everything from the original DOTA right in ActivisionBlizzard’s face; and to the Na’Vi team for becoming absurdly wealthy this weekend.

Kojima on needing lots of money, knowing how to market

Hideo KojimaIn a new interview with PlayStation Blog, Hideo Kojima compares being a game designer to producing a movie, saying:

Kojima: Right now, it’s very similar to movies: You need a lot of money. So rather than doing what you want, doing what you like, you must have a clear idea of marketing and sales. That’s what’s happening to us with FOX Engine; you do not need be an expert in programming to develop a game, but if you have a question, you still need an expert on-hand to provide an answer.

As for expression, that has reached a high level. Video games are trying to reach the peak of entertainment, so game makers should be clear that things like emotion and sound are among the many things that have to be involved. [source] [emphasis mine]

It doesn’t seem as if Kojima is complaining here, but he certainly has no illusions about being able to simply do “what he likes” and “what he wants”.  It’s all about marketing and sales.  It’s interesting that he would bring up the new FOX Engine as an example of this; does this mean he couldn’t do what he wanted with it, or is it just an example of requiring marketing savvy to get what you want?

Video Games in the Master Plan

Updated March 6, 2014: Added new section and improved some parts

This article deals with the controlled nature of the entertainment industry, pop culture, and the possibility of a conspiracy to turn gaming culture into a shallow, unhealthy and narrow-minded wasteland.

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Magicka!

I cannot stress enough that you should open up the Steam Store and purchase everything there is related to the game Magicka — the only video game where you can play as a mage with a hand gun and shades.  But that’s the least of all reasons why you should buy it:

  • It’s bright, playful and gorgeous visually
  • It’s cheap to buy (especially right now)
  • It’s got delightfully chaotic and challenging multiplayer, but it plays well solo
  • Best usage of combining elemental spells ever
  • It’s actually got a sense of humor
  • Magicka: Vietnam?

There’s more reasons, but long lists get annoying after a while.  Go see if it interests you right now!

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