Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 9, 2016

Email: The arrogance of game developers today

A lot of your recent posts can be summarized as “it doesn’t matter
what you (the players) want or like, but how we (the devs) can make
ourselves feel great”.

Take the Metroid franchise. Other M has killed it, no question, but to
someone like Sakomoto they’d think and say it was “a great success”
despite the game being anything close to Metroid. He also had the
gall, purely because of his own ego, to declare the Prime series
non-canon because it’d take away from *his* vision. And Federation
Force is just a ploy to kill off the Prime series completely so we’ll
end up with another game like Other M some time in the future, likely
on the NX. Which will both sell badly and get poor reviews, but
instead of addressing what’s wrong with the game we’ll get a reply
something to the effect of “what’s wrong with you for not loving my
masterpiece”.

It’s no different than when writers and producers of TV shows
change… they want to “make their mark” on the series so to speak,
often making questionable decisions and going against everything that
made it great to begin with. Both because they want it to be all about
*them* and because they sincerely believe that their vision is better.
Steven Moffat has done this to Doctor Who since he took over the reins
and has driven the ratings into the toilet with his predictable
story-lines and Mary Sue characters.

It’s just sad that this has bled into video games as well, I just want
to have fun and not be bombarded with someone’s “legacy” left and
right.

 

You’re right this is a more general problem especially in the West. Radical individualism is making everyone be unable to act as a team. It’s gotten so bad, you could argue it has even affected the marriage rate. But I’m not going to go there in this post.

You have to be a TEAM, not a collection of individuals. Nintendo knows this. Miyamoto knows this. The purpose is not the developer to have fun, the purpose is for the GAMER to have fun. Developing games is actually very hard, technical work that isn’t fun. As Iwata said, it is the customer who sits on the throne. It is the customer who decides what is quality and what is not quality. The customer can be quite a tyrant too. But if they want the money of the customer, then the customer must sit on that throne.

Here’s something to think about: who can speak against the Game God? Take Sakamoto as he is the easiest and most illustrative example to use. Who could speak against Sakamoto? Certainly no one on his team, certainly no one at Nintendo. The journalists couldn’t speak against him because journalists need access. Most customers just see the game and are not aware of who is making the game. So the only people who can speak against him would be you and me.

So what good does that do? Why have a blog full of complaints?

I believe it allows people to speak up. They already know it is true in their heart, but they need an outside reason or validation to do it. For example, Retro recently complained to Nintendo about someone from NCL just not being able to work with him. These complaints have existed before to some sort of degree (perhaps much less). There needs to be some sort of antibody to the Game God disease before bad sales appear. Game Gods are too expensive and too risky to have these days. They get an ego and destroy entire franchises.

Someone might ask, “Why is this Malstrom guy keep bashing Aonuma?” It is because Aonuma is fitting the ‘Game God’ disease to a T. He is completely shoe-horning the Zelda series in ways it suits his personal fancy. A good example is a Zelda game about trains simply because his kid enjoys playing trains. I am happy his child loves trains, but that is not a reason to revamp an entire video game series. Whatever happened to the RPG roots of Zelda? Whatever happened to the open world? Maybe the new Zelda will be more in line with this. We will see.

Games are about gamers having fun, not the developers. Games are about gamers being smart and clever, not the developers. “My goodness, Malstrom,” you say, “you act like being a game developer is being a JOB!” *horror* Of course, it is. Nintendo is a very serious company, and I know they get this. I am hoping that whatever genius someone thought they had after the Wii/ DS era got zapped by reality with the 3DS / Wii U era.

Remember what Iwata said before the Wii launched. “We must not become arrogant.” Sony and Microsoft were arrogant which led to their problems. If a little humility from commentators and gamers is created for them, it could save them millions of dollars.

We all want the same thing: great games that sell a ton. Just as I think it is absurd for gamers to demand games that no one wants to buy, it is absurd for developers to make games no one wants to buy.


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