I Hate People Who Hate Change

(Reposted from Beefy Media's very own blog
  I was recently perusing the interwebs, searching around for new trailers or information about Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2. For those of you who don’t know, I previously worked at Capcom as Director of Production for three years, leaving recently to start my own company, Beefy Media. 

While I was at Capcom, we rallied for and got approved the sequel to our successful XBLA & PSN game, Bionic Commando: Rearmed. I was very excited to work on this project, as I had gotten a chance to work on the original title (albeit VERY briefly).

You see, when I first got to Capcom, I had 2 goals. Goal 1 was to  create a sequel to Dead Rising, one of my favorite games of past years. Goal 2 (only slightly behind goal 1) was to  resurrect the Bionic Commando franchise. I’m sure you can understand how pissed off I was on an EPIC SCALE when I joined mid-2007 and found out that BOTH of these initiatives were well underway without any of my ideas.

Regardless, I plodded along very happily that both were being made, and after talking to some people internally, heard that Blue Castle and Grin wouldn’t let down the fanbase on these sequels. My next goal was to get my hands on these games to try them out, which for those of you who don’t know, is near impossible in a Japanese company.

So fast forward a year later. Bionic Commando: Rearmed launches (with one of the greatest launch trailers of all time) and ends up selling very well. In 2009, myself, Rey Jiminez, a Producer at Capcom (and the current Producer of BC:R2), and Kraig Kujawa, our Director of Design, embark on a mission to get a sequel to the game made.

Now most people don’t realize that BC:R was almost a level-by-level perfect re-creation of the original. When I first met the development team, they showed me the palette swatches that they had taken the color choices for the game. It was intense… these guys clearly had as much passion for the original as I did back in the day.

When it came to the sequel, we had many conversations about what we could add. I want to be very clear – NOBODY INVOLVED IN THESE DISCUSSIONS WERE ‘SUIT DOUCHES’. A ‘suit douche‘ is the name that I have awarded to people in the games industry who are empowered to make decisions, but have no idea of what video games are about and ‘played a game or 2 some years ago’. I loathe these types of people, and I assure you we didn’t have any involved in the disucssions. I was lucky at Capcom to work alongside bright, talented, and ridiculously knowledgeable people.

Since BC:R2 was going to be a true sequel, it gave us an opportunity to build from the ground up what a sequel of the original was – rethinking the evolution of the character, the abilities, the environments – everything soup-to-nuts. We had passionate conversations with the BC:R team in regards to changes, suggestions, and improvements. The beautiful thing about it was that EVERYONE was passionate. Whether it was their idea or someone else’s, there was rabid conversation about changes and how we would handle it.

As I reminisce to those discussions, I bring you all around to the reason I’m writing this article. I recently came across an article written by Jeremy Parish aka @Gamespite that decided to make broad assumptions that the people that are making BC:R2 are spineless schmoopties trying to appease modern-day low-ass-barrier-of-entry gamers.

My friend, you couldn’t be FARTHER from the truth.

I read your article thoroughly, and I automatically give you a ton of credit. You are passionate, you are doing what you love, and you have a man crush on the Bionic Commando Franchise. You and I have all of those things in common – when I got my dream job at Capcom, I was (and am still) very passionate about what I do, doing what I loved (making video games FFS) and I had a THROBBING man crush on Bionic Commando.

So that’s why you have to understand that your article, although articulate, was thoroughly assumptive in all the wrong ways.

To your own admission, you applauded Capcom for evolving the original arcade version of Bionic Commando to the home console NES release. You even mention in your article that “ These small refinements took a concept that was interestingly novel but deeply infuriating in its arcade incarnation and made it completely viable and genuinely fun on NES. Bionic Commando began as a nice idea, but the improvements it saw in its transition to cartridge form transformed it into something unique and very nearly perfect in its execution.” This was due to some of the fundamental changes that Capcom took in the early days from the Super Joe control scheme to the Rad Spencer one.

And now we add the ‘jump’ function and everything that is and was Bionic Commando is flushed down the window? How is that so?

Every original game that gets a sequel changes. It evolves. New additions, new storylines, and – SHOCKER – new mechanics.

You facetiously mention that “ A platformer that threw out the jump button was well and good in the heady, experimental days of the ’80s, but in these safe and formulaic times, there’s just no room for it. ” Could it be that the people that made that decision and developed the game are as deeply passionate about the IP as you are? Could it be that we were refining and improving on things just as our forefathers at Capcom 20 years earlier would have? What would you say if I told you that the guys in Japan who had worked at Capcom 20+ years liked the idea? Would that sway you?

Why do we fear change in video games so much? We always assume that it’s going to ruin the experience. Our industry has evolved in astronomical ways over the past 30 years, and the developers of the game want to  “meekly” (as you say) add a new feature, and they are automatically chastised for  “ having a petrifying fear of alienating fickle audiences”?

What happened to the olden days where we had to actually PLAY the game before we asserted our opinion? Or maybe reached out to some people on the dev or publishing team to find out if they were simply ‘selling out’ to sell 7 more units?

Instead of asserting that  “even our digitally distributed niche games have to compromise for mass appeal when the folks watching the bottom line see that a wire arm as a potential noose around their necks.”, let’s say what we all really feel:

“As a massive fan of the Bionic Commando franchise, I’m super excited for the sequel for BC:R. I know you added jump, and although I’m skeptical, I’m going to buy the game. If it’s shit, I’m going to hop onto the tallest mountain and crap all over it, but before that moment I will assume, much like we did in the olden days, that there are some developers out there that still know what they are doing”.

And with that, and the utmost respect, I can speak from the heart when I say that the jump feels fucking awesome in Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2.

Sincerely yours,

Adam Boyes

A.K.A. one of the guys trying to ruin your favorite childhood game

PS – We made it so you can finish the whole game without jumping. Good luck. 

My Trip to Sweden - Video Games, GB homies, & Minecraft

I recently returned from my whirlwind tour of Sweden. The main reason for the trip was to speak at the Swedish Game Conference in Skövde. I figured it would also be a great opportunity to stop over to Stockholm and catch up with a bunch of ex-Grin friends, and meet some new people.

Skövde (pronounced Hoo-eh-veh-deh) is located between Gothenberg and Stockholm. It's the home of Gothia Science Park (not Goth Science Park, which I'm sure is where they cooked up the concept for Twilight) which is a University, science center, and incubation center. It's basically a school where students learn about game development, and then can continue their studies and start companies with a great support structure.

The Swedish Game Conference was the first edition of this new get together. It was an opportunity to feature the facilities of the GSP, and gather a bunch of talented speakers and skilled students under once roof.

The speakers were very impressive. The keynote speaker was Stefan Lampinen, a seasoned industry veteran and global market insider when it comes to games. He's even been hired by ex-MI6 agents, FFS!

I had the pleasure of following his talk, which i will post a blog overviewing my full talk another time. It got some pretty good reactions, but i think that's only because I had bikini-clad Swedish women in my presentation.

After me, Tabitha Hayes who is in charge of Marketing for the Need for Speed franchise did a great talk about the top ten things to keep in mind when your studio is looking into the Marketing aspect of the project. She was also responsible for developing the marketing strategy for Call of Duty going into Modern Warfare 2, and shared some great war stories about those days in the trenches.

Craig Howe was up next, with a discussion about how to create social media buzz for your game. Craig was previously in marketing at EA, but founded his company RocketXL which is hired by Fortune 500 companies to develop social media strategies for them. He walked the crowd through all kinds of great insights, and featured some great examples of creating buzz (Warioware's Shake YouTube campaign, the Old Spice campaign) and examples of completely missing the point (Dante's Inferno deadly sins social buzz campaign).

To wrap up the day, Tom Russo, everyone's favorite insightful press guy, closed it down. He gave pointers on how to butter up the press, conduct on-camera interviews, and talked about his career highlights and lowlights when it came to the press side of things.

After the show, there was a large dinner hosted by the school for most of the students and speakers. During the day and throughout the dinner, I had a chance to meet with all kinds of students and start up companies. One of the things about my new company Beefy Media at i am so passionate about is providing advice for the smaller companies that don't know where to start. I met with and discussed strategy with multiple companies, and really enjoyed seeing what they had created and hear about their plans.

Once the conference was wrapped, I headed up to Stockholm to meet up with some friends, colleagues and clients to get down to business.

I'm working with 2 different teams in Stockholm - Might & Delight and Whiteout. Both teams were formed out of the dissolution of Grin, and both teams are working on new IPs trying to get deals with Publishers.

As i mentioned earlier, I'm really passionate about working with developers to help them through the overwhelming process of creating an idea, getting it in front of people, and getting a contract to create that game.

I spent over a day with each team, and we had a fantastic time creating, refining, brainstorming, and planning. I can't wait to talk more about the projects at both teams are working on, and so far it's been an absolute blast. I even got a chance to host a live uStream session with the Might & Delight crew, which I want to try to do more of in the future. 

I spent a ton of time trying to hunt down Notch who created Minecraft. Despite my best abilities, it did not happen ;)

There was also a great dinner catching up with my old brothers-in-arms, Bo & Ulf Andersson, the two brother/founders of Grin, and Mikael Nermark from Starbreeze (also worked at Grin). It was really great to meet up with those guys, they are all doing really well on their new ventures, and i can't wait to hear more about all of 'em!

Thanks to everyone that was a great host in Sweden, and especially the guys from various sites and Twitter that reached out to say hi! We're in a new age of digital entertainment and social interaction, and it excites me to experience this and see the evolution of the industry while experiencing it on the front lines.


Thank You, Keiji Inafune

It’s now been 6 months since I left Capcom to start my own company. I spent 3 years at Capcom, working as the director of production where I helped to build the product development organization in the US.

During that time, I had the opportunity to meet and work with Keiji Inafune, the head of global R&D at Capcom. As most of you are aware, news broke today that he has decided to leave Capcom. This comes as surprising news to many, but I wanted to take a moment to thank him for all that he did for us.

From the first time I met Inafune-san, he showed interest in what we were doing at Capcom US. At the time, we weren’t reporting to him or Japan R&D – Capcom US was a standalone group. As the years passed, Inafune-san became more and more interested in Western Development and in our Capcom US group. He had already engaged Grin to make Bionic Commando, and Blue Castle to make Dead Rising 2, so he had high hopes for the Western expansion of the company.

In 2009 we shifted to reporting to Inafune-san. Prior to that, my interaction was usually brief – we would have quick meetings, or see each other in green light meetings in Japan. Once we started reporting directly to him, the length and quality of meetings increased exponentially, and I got to spend some time getting to know one of our great industry luminaries.

I’ve been blessed in my career having the opportunity to work alongside great industry forefathers like Mark Turmell, Ed Boon, and George Gomez. When I got to Capcom, I never thought in that I would get to hang out and crack jokes over dinner with Inafune-san.

Even though some people in our company doubted that the West would bring any value, Inafune-san believed in our cause very strongly. He brought over large teams of Japanese producers, designers, and artists to meet with us and potential external development partners. He was adamant that if the Japanese didn’t listen, observe, and learn from the Western market, that it would mean the downfall of their industry.

Every time we met, whether it was in work meetings or after hours, Inafune-san would repeat his support for our cause in the US. He challenged assumptions, pushed us to think outside the box, question our intentions, but he always had our back. Capcom was a very special place to work, and working with Inafune-san and was a fantastic time in my career. It won’t be the same without him and I’m excited to see what he does next.

Thank you for all of your support, Inafune-san, and believing in us when many others didn’t. It was an honor and a privilege to have worked for you.  
From my Beefy Media blog.