The Sony Lecture

Today

 we, the students of Bournemouth University, were treated to a lecture from James Shepherd - the director of the Sony studio in Cambridge. Mr Shepherd and his team of 90 had contributed to the construction of games like Heavenly Sword, Wipeout, Play TV and LittleBigPlanet PSP. He spoke for over an hour, and allowed us to take part in a demonstration of the Sony brainstorming sessions. It was pretty awesome. 
 
His talk was titled "the Art of Computer Game Design". The lecture was roughly themed about inspiration and thinking outside the box. One of his slides contained posters for 5 classic films:
  • Star Wars
  • Blade Runner
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Alien
  • Aliens
 
The message was basically that while it is good to be aware of these films, and to be influenced by them, they aren't productive as a source of new ideas. Inspiration, the ability to think outside the box, comes from making yourself as accessible to as many new and unknown experiences as possible. This can range from simply going out of your way to read a non-mainstream magazine, to watching a generic Spaghetti Western at 2am, to travelling to some country in south America and just absorbing a new culture. Nobody cares if you have seen the latest Pixar film, because everybody has seen the latest Pixar film. Playing the latest Halo game doesn't make you a snowflake - It doesn't make you stand out and it doesn't make you unique.
 
It's quite an elitist mindset, that you should try to be as unique and individual as possible - the core message was simply that people should be more open minded. He informed us that the videogame industry is loaded with talented individuals, people who know their craft inside-out, but who haven't explored the world and are consequently short-sighted as to thinking outside the box when designing and shaping new ideas. You don't need to take my word for it, just look at the games you are playing. They might be a great games, but I doubt any of them are revolutionary. Uncharted 2 (which was heavily flaunted today) seems flawless in it's execution - and is presented as a culmination of every great videogame evolution from this generation. This is probably why it looks so great and the progression within it is so fluent. It raises the bar for quality, but it's hardly progressive as a concept.  

So, if you want to get a job in the videogame industry, immerse yourself in the unknown. Take a chance on something different. Apparently.
 
It did seem a little hypocritical that the man telling us to be innovative was responsible for Heavenly Sword, but meh what are you gunna do :D
 

IN OTHER NEWS

I'm going to the pub. See you later.
 
Thanks For Reading
Love Sweep
9 Comments
10 Comments
Posted by Sweep

Today

 we, the students of Bournemouth University, were treated to a lecture from James Shepherd - the director of the Sony studio in Cambridge. Mr Shepherd and his team of 90 had contributed to the construction of games like Heavenly Sword, Wipeout, Play TV and LittleBigPlanet PSP. He spoke for over an hour, and allowed us to take part in a demonstration of the Sony brainstorming sessions. It was pretty awesome. 
 
His talk was titled "the Art of Computer Game Design". The lecture was roughly themed about inspiration and thinking outside the box. One of his slides contained posters for 5 classic films:
  • Star Wars
  • Blade Runner
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Alien
  • Aliens
 
The message was basically that while it is good to be aware of these films, and to be influenced by them, they aren't productive as a source of new ideas. Inspiration, the ability to think outside the box, comes from making yourself as accessible to as many new and unknown experiences as possible. This can range from simply going out of your way to read a non-mainstream magazine, to watching a generic Spaghetti Western at 2am, to travelling to some country in south America and just absorbing a new culture. Nobody cares if you have seen the latest Pixar film, because everybody has seen the latest Pixar film. Playing the latest Halo game doesn't make you a snowflake - It doesn't make you stand out and it doesn't make you unique.
 
It's quite an elitist mindset, that you should try to be as unique and individual as possible - the core message was simply that people should be more open minded. He informed us that the videogame industry is loaded with talented individuals, people who know their craft inside-out, but who haven't explored the world and are consequently short-sighted as to thinking outside the box when designing and shaping new ideas. You don't need to take my word for it, just look at the games you are playing. They might be a great games, but I doubt any of them are revolutionary. Uncharted 2 (which was heavily flaunted today) seems flawless in it's execution - and is presented as a culmination of every great videogame evolution from this generation. This is probably why it looks so great and the progression within it is so fluent. It raises the bar for quality, but it's hardly progressive as a concept.  

So, if you want to get a job in the videogame industry, immerse yourself in the unknown. Take a chance on something different. Apparently.
 
It did seem a little hypocritical that the man telling us to be innovative was responsible for Heavenly Sword, but meh what are you gunna do :D
 

IN OTHER NEWS

I'm going to the pub. See you later.
 
Thanks For Reading
Love Sweep
Moderator
Edited by Oni

Games don't need to be "original" to be great. I wanna put that out there, first and foremost.
 
And really, what is it to be considered "original"? The most obvious answer is a type of gameplay that has never been done before. But isn't doing something familiar really, really well also original? Uncharted 2 is original because it takes gameplay ideas from games like Gears of War and Tomb Raider and combined them with the raw visceral thrill of being in an action movie. I've never seen any other game pull set pieces out of its ass like that or use camera angles so effectively. Uncharted 2 is, then, in fact, quite original. Heavenly Sword is easily dismissed as a God of War also-ran but its aesthetic and cinematic aspirations, with the performance capture, were also quite original. 
 
I mean, how often does a game come along that's just COMPLETELY original? In every aspect? Originality and innovation comes in bits and pieces, and the trick is combining those bits and pieces in new and exciting ways.  Scribblenauts is original, but we've all seen how that game is also deeply flawed. You gotta learn to walk before you can run.
 
Would you call Wipeout original when it came out? Why? Sure it looked futuristic, but it's just a racing game, surely? Weapons in racing games had also already been done, in Mario Kart. A game can be original without having gameplay no one's ever seen before, the trick is to package it in such a way that it seems novel.
 
That's my $.02

Posted by MetalGearSunny

Take LittleBigPlanet, for example. It got some awards for being most original. But, having played the game, it's just a standard platformer, but with the ability to share maps. If that's what people call "original", then the gaming industry is slowly losing it's head.

Posted by Claude

That's why I play with my Wii. Thanks Sony guy.

Posted by Ferginator4k

Wow i wish we had lectures like that at my Education Establishment, also a good point, innovative ideas generally make for more enjoyable games.

Posted by Rowr

These are good tips for living your life in general.

Posted by phlegms

All games need is boobs and explosions, anything other than that is entirely superfluous.

Posted by crunchUK
@Oni said:
" Games don't need to be "original" to be great. I wanna put that out there, first and foremost.
 
 "
This, i think you will find that all the greatest games within recent years have just taken something that's tried and tested, added refinements, and added features.
Posted by RenegadeSaint

While his talk sounds a bit cliched, the man obviously knows a lot about the video game industry.  It would be interesting to know if any HR people are instructed to take note of unique travel and cultural experiences when hiring.  My guess is that those types of things take a backseat to actual experience and talent.  But I suppose they could push you over the edge when compared to a similar candidate.  And as Mr.Shepherd said, perhaps they could inspire you to come up with something truly groundbreaking, putting you in a position to do the hiring and firing.  Sounds like an interesting lecture.

Posted by KamasamaK

It didn't sound like he was saying a game had to be original to be great. What I got from it was that while it isn't necessary, it's important to be original. In addition to differentiating your product from the competition, innovation is what progresses the industry as a whole. But of course you can still make a kickass game without much innovation, as is evidenced by Uncharted 2. I've also heard the argument that iterative titles such as Madden are useful for padding a company's bottom line so they can afford to take the risks that would be involved in putting out more original games.