21 posts in this topic

Donating my Xbox

Today I donated my Xbox 360 Elite to Goodwill. It represented a time in my life as a developer that I'm not overly proud about living.

I worked for a couple years designing games at Microsoft. It is honestly difficult to say the exact group I was in since the organization was hit regularly by massive reorgs and general management failure.

This was the era right before Kinect and there was an effort underway to broaden the audience to extend beyond the 'big black boy box' brand that so defined the original Xbox. Ultimately, the anemic outcome of this great leap forward was a handful of resource starved trivia games and gameshows. But the dream of bringing socially positive games to more people really appealed to me.

I was an outsider. When I used a console, it was likely to be one built by Nintendo. My design direction tended towards non-violence and cuter, gender neutral designs. I really enjoyed (and to this day still do) original mechanics and will trade cutscenes for gameplay in a heartbeat. Strategy over button mashing! My earliest influences stem from the Amiga and early PC titles, not the regurgitation of a roller coaster known as Halo.

The capital of the console ecosystem

In many ways, a gig at Microsoft was a career peak for many developers I worked with. Since childhood, they had played console games, worked at console companies and then finally made it to the platform mothership from which all their life's work was originally born. The repeated mantra was "The things we do here will impact millions." The unsaid subtext was "millions ofGamers just like us."

It was also a cultural hub. You worked there because you were a gamer. People boasted about epic Gamer Scores and joked about staying up multiple days straight in order to beat the latest release. The men were hardcore. The management was hardcore. The women were doubly hardcore. To succeed politically in a viciously political organization, you lived the brand.

You got the sense the pre-Xbox, gamers as bros was a subculture within the nerdy hobby of games. Over two console generations, a highly cynical marketing team spent billions with no hope of immediate payback to shift the market. Nintendo was slandered as a kids platform, not a leading light. Xbox put machismo, ultra-violence and chimpboys with backwards caps in the spotlight. Wedge, wedge, wedge. Gamers were handed a pre-packaged group identity via the propaganda machine of a mega corporation. For those raised post-Xbox, this workplace was the unquestioned birthplace, the Mecca. Dude. They made Halo.

Cognitive dissonance

I'm okay with not fitting in. Over many years I've gotten comfortable being an alien floating in a sea of Others. There weren't a lot of computer loving digital makers in rural Maine in the 80s. I spend most of my days dreaming of an intricate systemic future where things are better. It is a state of constantly being half a second out of phase with the rest of the world.

Still it was a challenge being in an group that knew intellectually they had to reach out to new people while at the same time knowing in their heart of hearts that just adding more barrels to a shotgun was the fastest path to gamer glory. Talking with others in the larger organization would yield a sympathetic look. "Someone has to deal with those non-gamers. Sorry it has to be you. Bro."

I am not actually a bro. Don't tell anyone.

We made adorable hand drawn prototypes and watched them climb through the ranks only to be shot dead by Elder Management that found cuteness instinctually revolting.

Correct games

There is a form to modern console games. If you've played the recent Bioshock Infinite, you can see the fully glory of the vision.

First there is a world rendered in lush 3D. This justifies the hardware.

Next are intermittent dollops of plot. These are voice acted because it is a quality signal. They feature intricately modeled characters on a virtual stage.This gives the arc narrative momentum and lets you know you've finished something meaningful.

Filling out the gaps in the 7-12 hours ride are moments of rote game play with all possible feedback knobs tuned to 11. Blood, brains, impact. Innovation is located at 11.2. This makes you feel something visceral.

Each element of this form is refined to a most perfect formula. There are crate-raised critics who make subtle distinctions between the 52 historical shades of grey. There are documents and research. If you are a creative working at or within a publisher, your higher purpose is to judge games based off their adherence to the form. The game is a product and consistency, much like that found in McDonalds fries, results in repeat purchases. You are someone with taste.

You police the act of creation. It is a job. It is a set of orders that come from above. It is your childhood dream.

Away, away

I no longer work at Microsoft. Instead, I started up Spry Fox and spend my dreamy days making odd little games. They barely have plots. They focus on player agency and more often than not sport cute 2D graphics. Very few can be won. None come in boxes. We don't even need to spend billions to get people to play them.

I'm driven by ideals that fit poorly with an industrialized console monoculture: What if games can connect people? What if they can improve the world? What if they bring happiness and joy to our lives?

Hardcore gamers, women, men, children, families, people that play no other games...they play these personal, quirky games of ours. Yeah...we impact tens of millions. Deep down, I'm not sure if any of them are people like me.

So far, none of these games have been released on the Xbox. There's little economic or cultural fit with the artificially propped up tribe residing in that cloistered warren.

So goodbye, big black box. I never really liked what you stood for.

take care,

Danc.

Source: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105363132599081141035/posts/W3ys5fKnz5t

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FPS are... the cancer of gaming.

Edit: Current gen FPS (and much probably, future gen)

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Sounds like a disgruntled employee who didn't understand the business of working for a large company when he went in. Also not sure how this culture applies only to MS. It would apply equally as well to Sony. Nintendo maybe not so much, but they aren't exactly doing so hot at the moment either. Business is business. They have to give the masses what they want.

That being said, independent gaming developers don't have to give the masses what they want. They have more leeway to figure out what people might want and to fail over and over again without investors breathing down their throat so I'm glad this guy figured that out eventually and I hope he does well.

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Sounds like a disgruntled employee who didn't understand the business of working for a large company when he went in.

This, and butt hurt much? Clearly stated he was an outsider coming from a predominant Nintendo console background. Biased much? He just sounds like a whiny basement-dweller who didn't fit in with the current generation of gamers who is trying to hold on to the past and wont move on. Perhaps he should have switched professions if he didn't like his job or the way things were progressing.

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Both of you surely know little about gaming indeed, "hold on the past" ? Have you really played every single good game of past console generations? surely not, therefore holding onto the past is quite a misleading term, because none of you both really know the entire past and with it what it actually made gaming great.

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Both of you surely know little about gaming indeed, "hold on the past" ? Have you really played every single good game of past console generations? surely not, therefore holding onto the past is quite a misleading term, because none of you both really know the entire past and with it what it actually make gaming great.

Clearly you don't understand how business works, as you seem to think "what makes gaming great" isn't completely subjective. Just because you don't like FPS doesn't mean companies like MS or Sony should stop making them. They sell the best because the majority of gamers enjoy them and think they are great games and you are going to have to deal with that.

I do miss some aspects of past games, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying what is out there now.

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FPS are... the cancer of gaming.

Edit: Current gen FPS (and much probably, future gen)

They look to me to be one of the few genres still doing well in Gaming. You seem to be projecting your own opinion as fact. I cannot stand JRPG's in any form yet I wouldn't call them "The Cancer of Gaming".

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Clearly you don't understand how business works, as you seem to think "what makes gaming great" isn't completely subjective. Just because you don't like FPS doesn't mean companies like MS or Sony should stop making them. They sell the best because the majority of gamers enjoy them and think they are great games and you are going to have to deal with that.

I do miss some aspects of past games, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying what is out there now.

Behind your words you can see it, I clearly understand how business work, money. For money you need a bigger audience, hence FPS, FPS attract all kind of persons but what they all do is to exploit what 007: GoldenEye on N64 did, they are a cliche. Since they are the games that produce most money (and note that this money comes from a public that wasn't before there) the other games became a "risk" for business (when in fact they were ok, they just have had always the same public) therefore efficiently killing any other "ventures" that may not get as much money as FPS, of course they will not get as much money as FPS because the public is completely different and far fewer, this is the legacy of "business", efficiently killing all the other good games in order of more people paying money.

Completely despicable and this is what that person is talking about, all in order of "immediate satisfaction" because apparently, you cannot get the attention of most people with any other gender of games that doesn't involve killing (with guns or lasers) or sports.

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I'm sure the people who played 007 on the N64 thought it was a great game. But it didn't create FPS gaming, it's not the root or cause for modern games, it was one of the steps, with or without it, we would still be where we are today.

As for MS, they have one of the most varied games portfolios out there in any case, and have tried a lot of stuff, but if it doesn't interest the public, you have to let it go, you can't keep it just for diversity.

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FPS are... the cancer of gaming.

Edit: Current gen FPS (and much probably, future gen)

"cancer of gaming"? What aload of utter drivel.

There is no need to twist this into some big drama

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Audioboxer and "the Xbox is inferior" propaganda.

Bleh.

Sounds like someone who`s angry at big budget game culture at the developer level. More a case of chance that its the xbox and not the ps he`s decided to bin. Tho I imagine its both really, as surely if MS are so evil and nasty, then Sony can only be Creativity Nazi`s aswell.

Also "couple of years", so what 2? Not a hugely lengthy contract of employment.

Im no MS fan, hell the way they treated me with my account being sold online then used for Fifa points scams is beyond a joke. But this article just seems like one man`s heavily biased opinion of a rather short window in his working career. Which has resulted in an equally stupid action imho.

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FPS are... the cancer of gaming.

Edit: Current gen FPS (and much probably, future gen)

Could not agree more. And it's coming from a fan of the genre who grew playing games like Doom, Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem, Quake, ROTT, Heretic/Hexen, Unreal and such.

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But this article just seems like one man`s heavily biased opinion of a rather short window in his working career. Which has resulted in an equally stupid action imho.

This.

And also:

So goodbye, big black box. I never really liked what you stood for.

If you hate something from the very beggining, then you just keep on finding reasons to hate. Which makes him an hypocrite.

Also Google+, from someone who worked at Microsoft. What a goddamn coincidence that article is.

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I do believe FPS' have ruined innovative game development. To me, all FPS' are essentially the same. Be that as it may, if that's what this generation of gamers buy, so be it.

One thing Sony has going for it, is a more diverse range of game types/style.

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Audioboxer and "the Xbox is inferior" propaganda.

Bleh.

Yeah it's all he seems to post. I wonder if he has anything better to do with his time.

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Hey, I've seen his articles before - he worked on Ribbon Hero, which I thought was pretty neat in itself and had interesting theory behind it. Too bad Microsoft ultimately didn't work out for him, but he seems to have found something new that he's a lot happier with.

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I do believe FPS' have ruined innovative game development. To me, all FPS' are essentially the same. Be that as it may, if that's what this generation of gamers buy, so be it.

One thing Sony has going for it, is a more diverse range of game types/style.

All genres can be boiled down to being "the same" game. I think the only genre that can't is RPG's, merely because they blurred into hybrids of almost every genre (FPS, TPS, Hack and Slash, Platformer, etc). To claim something ruined the industry merely by being standardized is too much. I agree that games today could do with some proper innovation, but that can be applied to all genres. Singling out one has absolutely no purpose. If you want to get mad about things never changing, play some of the recent MMO releases and realize how cookie cutter that genre has become. Makes shooters look like a rainbow of diversity.

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To claim something ruined the industry

I said it ruined innovation. Of all game genres, FPS' have the least room for innovation. It's FPS' and shoot. Even TPS' have more room for innovation in avatar graphic and animation to how the avatar interacts with the environments (i.e. platform like elements, combining genres well). From Gears, to Uncharted, to Tomb Raider. FPS' are FPS'.

Multiplayer has helped kill innovation as well. Any FPS now has a multiplayer that is just the exact same thing with different textures. Which is why I play mostly XBLA and am leaning toward going back to PS3, much more diverse range of games. Much more innovative designs IMO.

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I said it ruined innovation. Of all game genres, FPS' have the least room for innovation. It's FPS' and shoot. Even TPS' have more room for innovation in avatar graphic and animation to how the avatar interacts with the environments (i.e. platform like elements, combining genres well). From Gears, to Uncharted, to Tomb Raider. FPS' are FPS'.

Uncharted is not an FPS nor is Tomb Raider...

Regardless, shooters are not all alike and what makes shooters so popular is not the simple mechanic of shooting things, but dynamic of fighting in a very hectic arena. In fact, its the same reason I play Chivalry (although that game is more for the hilarity than the challenge). Still, the primary aspect is first person combat, not necessarily shooting.

There are all kinds of games in this vein, and many mechanisms that enhance it. Look at games like Bioshock, Fallout 3, F.E.A.R., Halo, Borderlands, etc (even Skyrim if you include arrows and spells). All these games, while FPS's in their genre all do things significantly different.

For whatever reason I feel the term FPS suddenly equates to Modern Combat Shooter.

Multiplayer has helped kill innovation as well. Any FPS now has a multiplayer that is just the exact same thing with different textures. Which is why I play mostly XBLA and am leaning toward going back to PS3, much more diverse range of games. Much more innovative designs IMO.

And yet we still get games like Bioshock: Infinite, Fallout 3, Dishonored and Borderlands 2 all ignoring competetive multiplayer in order to focus on single player content, and all being extremely different kinds of FPS's (ofc, all incorporating RPG elements but which game isn't?).

A single genre and mode of play cannot be responsible for the death of innovation in games.

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Uncharted is not an FPS nor is Tomb Raider...

those were my TPS examples. the point isn't that there's anything wrong with FPS'. But because there are so many who do like the hectic shoot 'em in the face, it's dominating game dev, on some platforms more than others, to the detriment of other genres.

Bioshock Infinite did break out of the mold that's for sure.

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I said it ruined innovation. Of all game genres, FPS' have the least room for innovation. It's FPS' and shoot. Even TPS' have more room for innovation in avatar graphic and animation to how the avatar interacts with the environments (i.e. platform like elements, combining genres well). From Gears, to Uncharted, to Tomb Raider. FPS' are FPS'.

Multiplayer has helped kill innovation as well. Any FPS now has a multiplayer that is just the exact same thing with different textures. Which is why I play mostly XBLA and am leaning toward going back to PS3, much more diverse range of games. Much more innovative designs IMO.

honestly you won't find the ratio of FPS to other titles to be different on other systems.

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