By LonelySpacePanda 11 Comments
Me and my fellow interwebian, Harhol, often have heated debates on things that don't matter, mainly video games. What started as a simple link exchange turned into a full blown debate on the state of Eastern game companies in comparison to Western companies. It's not pretty but people don't discuss this sort of stuff nearly enough without going into trolling territory. BTW, I'm the good guy (vote for me!)
Allistair Everett Harhol Scottercoch
(hides behind a cute avatar....pussy!) (needs a "make me not
look like a rapist"
Allistair: Andrew Fitch, 1up.com's once JRPG expert, takes aim at industry politics being the reason why Cross Edge disappoints (his words not mine) in his recent Bitmob article. He echoes some of my complaints about Japanese games I shared with you not long ago, except now it's well written and supported by actual research.Harhol: You consider a 700 word blog post which ends with the words "a lot of this is educated guessing on my part" to be something which is "supported by actual research"? He's basically rehashing tired & patronizing oriental stereotypes ("oh they're so regimented and homogenous!") and using them to justify his dislike of two(!) multi-dev collaborations, one of which is unlike anything seen before. Cross Edge might be utter shit but its originality is unquestionable, so I don't know why he uses it as an example of creativity being "sabotaged" by bureaucracy, especially when he basically admits to knowing nothing about the development of the game. Cross Edge is a game which displays considerable creativity & originality. This is inarguable-the battle system and overworld gameplay are brand new. If it is terrible then you can only blame the developers, not men in suits.
Allistair: Fitch is writing about his own experiences working with Konami and drawing conclusions. This is an industry he knows and loves, and like you he loves JRPGs--that's practically all he covered in his years working for 1UP. Saying the same shit happens in America is a null point, since he doesn't mention the rest of the world in the article. He's just drawing conclusions on why so many JRPGs are struggling these days. It's not research but his article is anecdotal more than speculative.
Harhol: Corporate bureaucracy is a huge problem across the industry. Singling out Japan for criticism is frankly ridiculous given the quantity of new IPs and bizarre oddities it continues to contribute year upon year. Do a side-by-side comparison of East and West and the former destroys the latter in terms of humour, charm, creativity & originality-no Japanese developer or publisher is as cynical & uncreative as EA or Activision. The fact that he puts the success of Kingdom Hearts down to the financial backing of an American company is laughable and borderline racist.
Allistair: I think it's silly to call it racist. I admit the article is more of a conversation starter then a declaration of any sort, which is why I liked it. He's commenting on how Japanese companies are run, in general. He never claims to know the specifics of each project, and really that stuff is behind the point. He is talking about how Japanese developers often feel their creativity is dismissed in the hands of the suits. I say suits but really these are just businessmen who are trying to run a business, if the last Resident Evil sold well they will keep making and selling them. The difference between East and West in this respect is that personalities hold more weight than sales figures with American companies. If Cliffy B wants to ditch Gears of War, he will.
Harhol: Several western franchises have been continued for money-making purposes despite the wishes of their original creators-Thief, Deus Ex, Fallout, Tomb Raider, Bioshock, Prince of Persia, God of War, Medal of Honor etc. Sequelitis is an industry-wide problem. I also disagree that personalities hold more weight in the West. Almost all of the industry's current big-name personalities are Japanese and the majority of them are in charge of their own studio. A number of high-profile western personalities (Mechner, Spector, Carmack, Romero, Garriott, Jaffe, Trenz, McGee, Tørnquist, Cecil) are either out of work, stuck in development hell or retired. Other than Molyneux, Cliffy & Cage I can't think of any who are active right now.
Allistair: I have to point to Jeremy Parish's EGM feature, "The Rise and Fall (And Rise?) of Japan" where he interviewed many of the industry's giants, from Capcom's Keiji Inafune (Dead Rising, Mega Man) to legendary game designers like Kenji Eno (Rez, D). All of them had the same thing to say, that Japan has fallen behind and now companies are being re-inspired by the west.
I think Inafune says it most clearly here, "In Japan, a game developer only coexists with publishers as a single company, while many U.S. game software groups are independent. In the U.S., there's free compettion between developers, which results in better products."
Harhol: I don't see this as a bad thing. What matters to me is whether games are good or not. SCEJ may be a giant corporate behemoth but it still produces games like Echochrome, Trash Panic, Patapon, Loco Roco and Piyotama, all of which can be considered "indie" in spirit.
Allistair: It's still a struggle over there and we have yet to see a great Japanese indie title like Braid or Flower. Even more importantly, it seems very few leaders come to the forefront in Japan while only in the past year have literate gamers learned the names Jonathan Blow, Jonathan Mak, and Phil Fish.
Harhol: Well if there are no indie developers then how can there be indie games? Seems a little harsh. Blow is fairly high-profile because of his ceaseless rants against piracy but the other two aren't well known at all (I hadn't heard of Fish and I doubt anyone else on this site has). I don't think namedropping the designer of your favourite games makes them a "leader" all of a sudden. As I said above, the vast majority of industry personalities (or "leaders") are Japanese. And I'd also disagree that there haven't been any great indie Japanese games-Cave Story is the obvious pick but if you're into shmups (particularly bullet hell) then there are studios like ABA, Orange Juice, Studio Siesta and Team Shanghai Alice putting out dozens of quality titles. Just because something isn't on PSN or XBLA it doesn't mean it doesn't exist....
Allistair: ...Fuck you.
Harhol: No, fuck you!