The USS Quad Damage

Hot or not?

Is that the question? And if so... who answers?

I'm betting it was the rave reviews that made the game popular

Markus Andrews wrote about developing new IP for EA DICE. DICE are a strange bunch. Equal parts retarded and genius, equal parts naive and inspired, and equal parts hum-drum and magnificent. This article clearly shows how DICE have their artistic inspiration stymied by statistics. What’s “hot”, what are the “trends”, “who am I going to sell this to?”. These are some of the questions asked as opposed to “what am I trying to show / say?”, “How am I going to say it / what's effective?”, "How are people going to latch onto / be inspired by an idea?"

One of the problems is that a lot of the effort goes into this up-front portion of “IP Generation”, an act which would be largely useless if it weren’t for the fact that because sequels sell so damn well, you really need to justify coming up with a new idea. Looking at it in this light, the whole concept of free-running in Mirror’s Edge is based on it’s popularity rather than because it fit the vision of the game. This is possibly why the game, while in some ways inspired, lacks any real depth.

A number of statements made by the article rubbed me the wrong way. More than that, the factual portion — the popularity “card” is a truly depressing state of affairs, with the best selling movies being sequels or otherwise gearing off ideas already present (Titanic from the real thing, Passion of the Christ from the Bible). However, I feel like the DICE guys can actually comprehend and improve on this whole “market and metrics” ideology.

The refinement of a game idea is a process in which you are required to find its place in popular culture, time, and trends.

This has a fair bit of the selection effect about it. Following trends is great if you succeed, but why would anyone buy a Bad Company 2 if Modern Warfare 2 was incredible? People got sick of MW2 so they got BC2 to tide them over. Or perhaps it was the fact that BC2 was different. Understandably, not very different — you can still describe most of BC2 with "like MW2 but...", however the differences still form the basis for that purchasing decision. In addition, I don’t think BC2 is quite that great. It’s destined to be forgotten, where MW1 still sells for full price. Further, there are games such as Okami or Katamari which basically come out of nowhere. In short, this doesn’t sound harsh, it sounds naive.

We are in the forefront of culture, media, and social life. We call for the attention of hundreds of millions of people; the stakes are high. A high quality pitch should ideally be a really interesting core idea, anchored in popular culture and trends, with clear and convincing references.

This is akin to saying “Everyone's listening, and this is going to be remembered forever, so make sure you tell them all something they already know!” The political speeches you remember are the ones which crystallise an idea or open people’s eyes to something. This is why everyone knows Kennedy and Lincoln’s speeches, but no one really gives a shit about the vacuous crap all the other politicians say or said. A high quality pitch should say something meaningful or else it will be forgotten.

UFC is well-established as a hot trend today, but not too long ago it was an upcoming trend, a trend that THQ managed to pinpoint with their official UFC game Undisputed. Undisputed is a great example of a new IP that caught a trend upward and is now an enviable and strong IP.

There are a couple of bits in the analysis which are retarded. The quote above, as well as the analyses of both Batman and the Terminator. For UFC Undisputed, I’m pretty sure most people looked at that game and raised an eyebrow. It seemed like it would be a fucking waste of time. I’m betting it was the rave reviews that made the game popular. The fact that it was technical and actually a good game probably did more than any amount of “UFC is so hot right now” would’ve done. It’s like saying Guitar Hero was made popular due to “through the fire and the flames”.

Similarly, he fails to notice that the new Batman, Ironman and Spiderman movies were expertly handled by Marvel themselves, who created these characters in the first place. The IP itself didn’t seem to matter, it was the fact that a great amount of passion went into making the IP right, and have it deliver a message. Both the old Batman and the new Terminator were punctuated by people who basically just wanted to milk a popular franchise. You can immediately see the lack of depth and respect given to these IPs.

In short, Markus' article shows the mediocre side of DICE, and how the “measure and control” mindset is probably the reason for them creating brilliant but ultimately shallow games.