Ramble: Authorship in Games

zacajzacaj wrote on 25 Feb 2013 02:03

The Background

Reading about Bungie's announcements about Destiny123 and noted sadly that they took the4 path of advertising it as "the next game From The Makers Of Halo5", although I wasn't at all surprised. I was surprised, however to note that they had a slide/screen/?6 that had Halo 1,2,3,ODST,Reach along with all the Marathons and a few other games that I hadn't heard of. Which made me happy, sad, and also sad. Happy, because they're at least acknowledging that Bungie has made other (arguably good) games, even if they did make them 15 years ago. Sad, because they've been making clockwork Halo games7 for so long that most of Destiny's target audience8 has only heard of Halo. Also sad, because they couldn't just say "Destiny, by Bungie", they had to reference the games Bungie has made. And thus we have overcome The Background.

Whatever Comes After The Background910

I'm an aspiring11 game developer. I've made a lot of games. Made isn't necessarily the right world, since I haven't finished them, but I have made them, haven't I? I'm working on a TRPG12 as we speak. It's nowhere close to being done13, but that hasn't stopped me from getting way ahead of myself and designing things like the opening sequence, which I planned would go something like this:

  1. black screen
  2. "The Company presents" fades in, then fades out
  3. "a game by Firstname Lastname"
  4. "THE TITLE"
  6. black screen

I even considered replacing those three separate lines of text fading in and out with just


by Firstname Lastname

and no mention of The Company anywhere.

(spoiler alert: it was another background)18


I pictured a world where one might walk into a gaming store212223 and see a box with FIRSTNAME LASTNAME emblazoned in large shiny letters, with the game's actual name printed in noticeably smaller type below it. Off to one side it might say, in even smaller letters, if this game were part of a series, "Part 3 of <some series>" or "Sequel to <some other game>", instead of having CALL OF DUTY NINE on the front cover and "Infinity Ward" or "Treyarch" stylized in small letters buried next to the fine print on the back, below those screenshots and "features" that no one ever looks at. The game wouldn't cost $60, and you when you noticed FIRSTNAME LASTNAME you'd think to yourself, "hey, GAME1 and GAME2 were by FIRSTNAME LASTNAME. I liked them! This game will probably be good too." and then you'd buy it, and when you took it home, you'd like it too. Maybe you'd even like it enough to go online and find FIRSTNAME LASTNAME's Twitter of mailing list, and check if they'd made any other games.

Of course, not all games are made by one person. In many cases, there are only one24 people that are responsible for the majority of the game, and the rest of the team that churned out all the code and art to make the game work could have been swapped out for any other skilled team without any real change in the final product25, but there are also many games where there is no single lead, and it's the skills of many of the people in different aspects that make the game. Sometimes there's really nothing you can do about that though. Maybe a game was only good because many different people just happened to independently have a few good thoughts during its development, and the same team could otherwise just churn out bad games left and right. Then again, you're not really going to build much brand recognition off one good game anyway. And I won't even go into much of the game industry's seeming penchant for laying off all their employees after each game ships. There are of course some companies who keep most of their core team together, and reliably create good games without any one person making a major leaderly contribution. The preceding paragraph shouldn't be taken as advocating putting single designers at the head of every game's marketing so much as just putting forward aspect the games share that26 makes them good.

In either case, a focus on the person/people who made a game good as opposed to serieses272829 would alleviate many of the problems we have with introducing new IPs, and some such. I've got30 a lot of respect for Infinity Ward because of MW1+2, and arguably if they'd gone on to make a non Call of Duty game based on their name alone it still would have been a FPS, but at least they wouldn't have had the constraints inherent in working on a sequel, and I bet they would've made a better game. At the worst, we'd just end up dogmatically marketing to people based on the figureheads who made the game as opposed to the series the game is in, and I doubt it'd be any worse than what's been plaguing us the last few years.

Outro (it's like the intro, but at the end)31

As always happens when I write out a few pages of stuff without any plan32, I'm sure I've completely forgotten one of my points3334. Luckily, through the magic of the internet, I will silently add the point in when I think of it35. Just remember, if I was vague at any point, I meant the possibility that makes me more right.36

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