Career Blog Part 23

Pain in the ESRB

I forgot to mention a pretty crucial time in SAW's development that happened near the end. SAW was due to be released in a few months so it was time to submit the game to the ESRB for their rating. We needed to get an M. If we got an AO (Adult's Only) we'd lose far too much shelf space. We'd be dropped from the Walmarts of the world and unfortunately that is still a huge percentage of the market. Not to mention our publisher would probably scrap the game completely if we didn't ship with an M.

We submitted and got it back around a week later: AO.

We had to scramble. We weren't a big player in the game industry, so they didn't really share anything more about what exactly we were knocked down for except for "Gratuitous Gore." Gratuitous gore? It's a SAW game, what'd they expect? I didn't even think it was all that gory to be honest and had even submitted suggestion bugs along those lines... I guess it's a good thing those were sent back as "Won't Fix", huh?

We decided to focus on the trap failures. If the player failed to successfully disarm the traps in the game, the victims of the traps would be killed rather gruesomely. We toned down the cut scenes and changed camera angles. We also removed a few other gory elements. The traps were a joke now, I lamented. SAW fans expected a certain level of gore from this series and we were going to be short-changing them dramatically, I felt.

But, we were at the whims of the ESRB. We submitted again. A week later, we got the European results: M! (or Pegi 17 or whatever it's called). Success! American results: AO. What? You gotta be kidding me...

We started scrambling again, this time branching off a separate build of the game for North America... hey, if the Europeans were ok with the gore level, we weren't going to change it. Besides, if we did, we'd have to submit to the ESRB for another rating and that'd waste time. So, all of you Europeans out there have a much gorier version of the game then the Americas! For the North American version, we once again toned down the gore, toned down the sound effects, cut away camera angles, obscured the deaths until they were a shell of their former existence. We submitted: an M. Thank you! Sheesh!

Meanwhile, games like Mortal Kombat, Dead Space, and Resident Evil show FAR more gore then we ever did. That's the difference money makes. If you're a big-money publisher of a big-name title, you get special treatment from the ESRB. If you're a nobody, expect the same kind of treatment for a nobody. It's pretty despicable, really. But I digress. SAW came out and fans of SAW were disappointed and fans of good games were disappointed, so it was an all around disappointment. But I will say still that, I'm proud of the artwork I did and the style of the game. I do feel that that was something that was done right.

Next: SAW II???

2 Comments
3 Comments
Posted by mtmckinley

Pain in the ESRB

I forgot to mention a pretty crucial time in SAW's development that happened near the end. SAW was due to be released in a few months so it was time to submit the game to the ESRB for their rating. We needed to get an M. If we got an AO (Adult's Only) we'd lose far too much shelf space. We'd be dropped from the Walmarts of the world and unfortunately that is still a huge percentage of the market. Not to mention our publisher would probably scrap the game completely if we didn't ship with an M.

We submitted and got it back around a week later: AO.

We had to scramble. We weren't a big player in the game industry, so they didn't really share anything more about what exactly we were knocked down for except for "Gratuitous Gore." Gratuitous gore? It's a SAW game, what'd they expect? I didn't even think it was all that gory to be honest and had even submitted suggestion bugs along those lines... I guess it's a good thing those were sent back as "Won't Fix", huh?

We decided to focus on the trap failures. If the player failed to successfully disarm the traps in the game, the victims of the traps would be killed rather gruesomely. We toned down the cut scenes and changed camera angles. We also removed a few other gory elements. The traps were a joke now, I lamented. SAW fans expected a certain level of gore from this series and we were going to be short-changing them dramatically, I felt.

But, we were at the whims of the ESRB. We submitted again. A week later, we got the European results: M! (or Pegi 17 or whatever it's called). Success! American results: AO. What? You gotta be kidding me...

We started scrambling again, this time branching off a separate build of the game for North America... hey, if the Europeans were ok with the gore level, we weren't going to change it. Besides, if we did, we'd have to submit to the ESRB for another rating and that'd waste time. So, all of you Europeans out there have a much gorier version of the game then the Americas! For the North American version, we once again toned down the gore, toned down the sound effects, cut away camera angles, obscured the deaths until they were a shell of their former existence. We submitted: an M. Thank you! Sheesh!

Meanwhile, games like Mortal Kombat, Dead Space, and Resident Evil show FAR more gore then we ever did. That's the difference money makes. If you're a big-money publisher of a big-name title, you get special treatment from the ESRB. If you're a nobody, expect the same kind of treatment for a nobody. It's pretty despicable, really. But I digress. SAW came out and fans of SAW were disappointed and fans of good games were disappointed, so it was an all around disappointment. But I will say still that, I'm proud of the artwork I did and the style of the game. I do feel that that was something that was done right.

Next: SAW II???

Posted by Akrid

Hey! Just to let you know, I am still reading these and enjoying them immensely. Every single one is ridiculously interesting. Keep up the good work!

Posted by mtmckinley

Thanks! I'm glad they are interesting to you!