You go around with the whole “oh look, the whole game industry is just putting tired old retreads on the efforts of great games before them, there is no creativity or originality in the world anymore le sigh” then expect the world to marvel at Chainmail Bikini?
Use your powers for awesome. You have a large audience that you *earned* with witty, quality work in DMoTR. If you think games today are crappy, work towards making a better one. Be different; you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone's personal site ranting about the sorry state of [hobby], why not rise above that?
It’s true that a lot of my videogame posts have been pretty sour lately. I’ve been writing lamentations on the fading hobby that is PC gaming. Part of this decline is inevitable. Consoles really came into their own over the last few years. Better graphics, HDTV, internet connectivity, and other improvements have eliminated most of the advantages of the PC platform. Developers prefer consoles because of the fixed hardware, standardized controls, and low piracy. This has formed a positive feedback loop: More developers making more console games has sold more consoles, making them even more attractive for developers.
The shift of videogames from the PC to consoles is sad for those of us who prefer PC gaming, but there isn’t much to be done about it. Yeah, I’m a betamax user in 1986. It’s sad to see trends go against me, but that’s not what’s making me mad.
What is making me mad are the publishers, not for abandoning the platform, but for polluting it and hastening its fall. I’m not upset that there aren’t any games I want to play, I’m annoyed that there are games I’d play, but they are saddled with DRM, riddled with bugs, and demand cutting-edge graphics hardware to deliver stone-age gameplay. We don’t really need better games. We just need them to stop sabotaging the ones they give us. Lack of innovation is a bit of a bummer, but lack of quality and contempt for the customer are the real villains.
On top of all of this, game “journalists” are AWOL on this stuff. The major gaming press doesn’t get near these issues. So, my constant hammering away on the BioShock DRM fiasco is almost an attempt to make up for their silence. Somebody has to say something. To a certain extent I have used my “powers” – such as they are – for good. I let people know what the review of BioShock in PC Gamer didn’t bother to tell them: The game is broken, annoying, and 2KGames can’t decide if it wants to react with scorn or apathy towards frustrated customers. I’m helping people make a slightly more informed buying decision, which is worth something.
As for me making a game…
I’ve given this sort of thing a lot of thought. The major hurdle is that I’m not a leader or manager. I’m not the right guy to gather up a squad of creative types and Make Something Happen. I’m an engineer, not a foreman. I’m wise enough to know this. We’ve all seen projects where somebody with big dreams and miniscule management skills has tried to change the world, and it’s usually a train wreck. Daikatana is a notorious example. John Romero is not an idiot. He’s most likely not a bad programmer. He is a rotten manager, and when he took up the mantle of leader, he bit off orders of magnitude more than he could chew. The result is a game that lost staggering amounts of money and served as a universal punchline in the industry for years.
I’m also not very well-off, and even a “no budget” indie game needs a little cash, so I’m really not the guy for this particular quest. (I’m not complaining. I’ve made deliberate decisions that led me to this spot in life and I’m not crying about not making “enough” money. I’m just saying I don’t have the reserves to start a company. Not even a small unofficial one. Nominal fame is nice, but it doesn’t keep the electricity on.)
Sure, I have ideas for games, but the sad truth is that game ideas are so common as to be nearly bereft of value. Everyone has an idea for a game. Even when you bring a whole bunch of programmers and artists together to make a game, each of them is most likely nurturing an idea for some other game in the back of their mind while they toil away at yours.
So game concepts are nothing new and – as painful as it is to realize – nothing special. It’s easy to come up with a game. It’s harder to come up with fun, balanced gameplay mechanics. It’s harder still to find a group of talented people who can get behind your vision. And it’s damn near impossible to get funding for the thing. So, getting an “idea” is the easiest step in a long process fraught with peril. Having an idea for a game is Frodo thinking about leaving The Shire. Making a game is getting your butt up the side of Mt. Doom and destroying the One Ring in time for the planned release date.
I’ll admit now that I’ve written design docs for games. I’ve sketched out stories, gameplay mechanics, labor requirements, character designs, and technology requirements. They’re all sitting in text files, unused, because there’s nothing to be done with them. I can’t put them to use, and anyone worth their salt as a developer is most likely busy with a current project and thinking about the next. Only the thinnest shreds of self-respect keep me from just unloading them here on the site.
I’m still looking for opportunities. Maybe someday I’ll find a way into the industry that doesn’t require living in Southern California or working for a huge, publisher-driven company. Maybe I’ll come up with something compelling that I can tackle on my own. I don’t know. My love for games and my fondness for tinkering with technology and gameplay mechanics drive me to want to get involved. At the same time, I’d rather sit on the sidelines than get involved in some half-assed way.
The Middle Ages
Would you have survived in the middle ages?
The Best of 2013
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2013.
Grand Theft Railroad
Grand Theft Auto is a lousy, cheating jerk of a game.
Why Batman Can't Kill
His problem isn't that he's dumb, the problem is that he bends the world he inhabits.
The Truth About Piracy
What are publishers doing to fight piracy and why is it all wrong?