By lilith70 20 Comments
I used to sit in awe and just a little bit of jealousy when I was a kid, watching friends play endless rounds of "Pong" on their Ataris. Video games for me were carefully-collected-and-hidden quarters spent in long afternoons of Ms. Pacman, Joust, Tempest, and Galaga. And then we got our first PC, a Texas Instruments 8088 with TWO 5.5-inch floppy drives AND a mouse!
(And, yes, I'm mostly sharing this to assure you that I am Old.)
Fast-forward many years, and I work for Spicy Horse Games, the latest endeavor of our illustrious leader (and my high school buddy), American McGee. I get to see the newest and neatest developments as we unfold the process of creating games, and it's often things that the general public will never lay eyes on. (Sometimes, that's quite a blessing.) What I do, however, is not so much about game development as it is community development. I manage the forum and keep the hint of our works in the public eye... but not just any eye.
I am the SPHORax, I speak for the fans.
More and more, I think game developers are starting to get the idea that the key to their success comes not in "focus groups" (comprised mainly of people who are not in the target demographic) or in "statistical analysis" (trends of what games perform well over what period of time) but more and more in the words of what comes directly from the public, the people who are buying the games themselves - not just those buying the advertising for the games. Why does Madden Sports or Halo titles do so well in the marketplace? Because that's where the advertising dollars are. What would happen if we turned the model upside down and instead started designing games creatively from the feedback we get from the people who are actually playing?
That's where we're going, I think - certainly as a company and ideally as an industry. If you can only buy one game for a year, let's say, what would you want to see it in? Different endings? How much play time? What would be "too much"? How aggressive should it be? How gentle? How many puzzles versus how many shoot-em-ups? How many character options? How important is multi-player? What is appealing about single-character linear stories? What is appealing about sandbox worlds? What stories mean the most to you?
These are the things I explore, both as a community manager and as a sometime writer. What's the point of writing a story that no one else wants to read? I know that we're working hard to keep a finger on the pulse of What Gamers Want, but is this an across-the-board good thing? Where is the line between what we think you'll like, what you specifically ask for, and then something totally new and mind-blowingly amazing?
Chime in. What do you think?