197: Yak to the Future

Yak to the Future

It takes a true iconoclast to combine a passion for arcade games with a lifelong love of psychedelia and hoofed animals. But one British game designer has made a career of doing just that. Graeme Virtue profiles Jeff Minter, one of the U.K.'s original 8-bit coders and founder of Llamasoft.

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I have to say I'm not convinced. I'm not convinced that zany, off-the-wall games really resonate with the public at large. As much as arcade game designs are returning and gaming is coming full circle I don't think that people will suddently start being interested in something they've been ignoring in the old arcade days already. Then again I'm one of those people who had Tempest 2000 for the PC and even at 5DM considered it a waste of money (gave it away as a gift later on).

Much as KDR says, I think the public are even more scared of 'change' than usual. They might download the demos, but trying to make them shell out cash seems to only work with PROPER REAL TITLES.

Hence why Sam and Max, Psychonauts etc. fail while still being astoundingly good.

The more we grow, the more we become alike. Even Manic Miner, if remade today, would be panned by the reviewers.

I'll jump on the bandwagon and agree with the previous posters. However, I will not agree entirely. I don't think it can be easily boiled down to "Everyone is afraid of change". I think there's more to it. Everyone sure wasn't afreaid of change before, were they? Obviously not, since the franchises must have started off somewhere. Same with gaming.

When the gaming started to become more "serious", and a lot of new games were introduced, there was a bunch of people who jumped right on it. They took gaming to their hearts, and have enjoyed it ever since. These people obviously weren't afraid of change. I have several different reasons as to why new titles are not as well recieved now as they would before.

I'll even go ahead and share them with you guys. Because that's just how kind I am.
First of. Let me describe a sceonario for you. A sceonario wich will make it easier to understand what I'm about to say. Let's say the local candyshop has two boxes. One yellow one black. You have several good experiences with the yellow one, as that one contains chocolate. Choloate is good. You like chocolate. Now, as the shop-owner is not a kid, or have any relations with kids himself (apart from selling candy to kids, of course) you're not sure if he knows what is good.

You can try and go for the black box this time, but mathematically it's like buying something you don't like. As you don't know what is in the black box, you have no idea if it'll be something you like. The yellow one, however is almost guaranteed to be chocolate. So why would you buy the black one, when you're that sure it's the yellow one you'll enjoy.

They're not afraid of changes. They're just afraid of risk. They don't want to end up with a bad desition. And to avoid that, they go with the familiar

Now it's the other reason. People are dumb. They want a game they can manage to get through. They want "challenges", but not a challenge that is difficult. Sam & Max is a good example of that. The first one was very good, but didn't sell to new heights. So they dumbed it down. They made it easier. You see the mistake a lot of new titles make is trying to make an interesting game. They're trying to give you a challenge. Wich obviously ends in epic fail. Sorry, I had to

When these new titles make games interesting, and challenging people notice that. And the dumb people despise it. Hence drawing a line between too difficult and new titles. You'd be amazed how much damage a dumb person could make. If this dumb person takes a walk to his friends and tell them how bad this game is, they'll believe him. And then the evil circle is on. And reasonable people starts believing them too. Hence making it a lot less lucriative to make new titles.

And if you say that it doesn't matter, because real gamers'll buy them you're right. Almost. It does matter. This might not be known to you, but dumb people outnumber the rest of us. Hopefully they're not going to try and claim the world. They allready claim the right to decide what games should be made, and what should not. It's basicly the same thing with casual gamers. Like Wii is a lot more a console for casual gamers rather than hardcore ones, the dumb games are for dumb people. Casual gamers buy enough Wii-stuff for it to outsell the good stuff. Hence making it less desirable to make the good games.

My third and last reason before I let you go, is advertising. Advertising has a lot to say. A whole lot. The more you get a game shoved down your throat (To some extent, that is. If you overdo it, people'll get sick of it. A thin line, you don't want to cross), the more you'll want to buy it. When you go to the store, and see two different games - One who's been advertise thorughly, and one you've barely heard of - you usually go for the advertised one. Because you'll have more guarantee that you'll like that one better, as you can judge it from the trailers, and advertisement aong with the back of the box. While the one you've never heard of, you only have the back of the box.

And the thing with that is new titles usually don't have the money to advertise as much. Just look at L4D. That was advertised to insane amounts. And it took off into the skies! Other games that I'm sure is at least as good, has never really recieved any glory. Why? Becasue they didn't edvertise. Simple as Dell

Now that's that! I'm off to bed now

The golden age of gaming has passed, it was the mid to late 90's and up to 2002 when the PC and consoles had countless awesome games. Now everything is a rehash of those years with brown or grey washed graphics engines that that are more important than making the the game good.

sprinkle on overuse of subscriptions, digital distribution that teathers players to a net connection, never ending nickle and diming BS thanks to DLC and oppressive DRM. This is the corporate age of gaming.

The_root_of_all_evil:
Hence why Sam and Max, Psychonauts etc. fail while still being astoundingly good.

The more we grow, the more we become alike. Even Manic Miner, if remade today, would be panned by the reviewers.

Your statements make no sense.

Sam & Max and Psychonauts were critically acclaimed. What do reviewers hating on remakes have to do with anything?

It's the public not buying the games despite the good reviews and this is mostly because the marketing for those games isn't up to scratch, with the two biggest issues being they come out at bad times of the years, or they're simply not advertised.

FunkyJ:

The_root_of_all_evil:
Hence why Sam and Max, Psychonauts etc. fail while still being astoundingly good.

The more we grow, the more we become alike. Even Manic Miner, if remade today, would be panned by the reviewers.

Your statements make no sense.

Sam & Max and Psychonauts were critically acclaimed. What do reviewers hating on remakes have to do with anything?

It's the public not buying the games despite the good reviews and this is mostly because the marketing for those games isn't up to scratch, with the two biggest issues being they come out at bad times of the years, or they're simply not advertised.

Because I was talking about the public? Good reviews, poor sales. Because the public tends to buy en masse rather than looking out for other games. Even Psychonauts got an unfair panning because "The platforming wasn't that good". Manic Miner had horrendous sound, unfair gameplay, no saves, insane graphicsno storyline BUT was still the game you HAD to have.

And it had no marketing whatsoever, other than a crude picture of a phone(?) on the front of the box.

Daye.04:
. Let's say the local candyshop has two boxes. One yellow one black. You have several good experiences with the yellow one, as that one contains chocolate. Choloate is good. You like chocolate. Now, as the shop-owner is not a kid, or have any relations with kids himself (apart from selling candy to kids, of course) you're not sure if he knows what is good.

You can try and go for the black box this time, but mathematically it's like buying something you don't like. As you don't know what is in the black box, you have no idea if it'll be something you like. The yellow one, however is almost guaranteed to be chocolate. So why would you buy the black one, when you're that sure it's the yellow one you'll enjoy.

They're not afraid of changes. They're just afraid of risk. They don't want to end up with a bad desition. And to avoid that, they go with the familiar

Problem here. Reviewers have told you that the black box (Perhaps it should be orange?) contains LOTS of chocolate, and the yellow ones have been having less and less chocolate in all the time.
Why then, are lots of people still choosing the yellow one?

The_root_of_all_evil:

Problem here. Reviewers have told you that the black box (Perhaps it should be orange?) contains LOTS of chocolate, and the yellow ones have been having less and less chocolate in all the time.
Why then, are lots of people still choosing the yellow one?

Because people are chynical (SP?). They don't believe them. Have you ever tried to tell someone that you'll give them a box of chocolate if they jump up and down three times?
They refuse. They want you to show them the money first, and etc. They want solid proof. And even though reviewers provide pictures, they won't actually show you the game and how it feels to play it.

Now people know, however - that if they go to their moms, they will get a box of chocolate.
Becuase they've done so before. People will buy the game that has satisfyed them ones or twice, because they're pretty sure it'll keep up to the standard. And they'll keep doing that. Because it's safe and not risky.

People will keep going to their moms for chocolate until she smacks them and tell them to grow up. That's just how peoples minds are. They enjoy changes, as long as it's not risky

Honestly, I'm not quite sure if I'd call Yak a genius or Iconoclast. I actually had a copy of "Attack Of The Mutant Camels" for the C-64 (when I first started gaming seriously) and believe it or not it was a C-64 Cartridge. I wouldn't quite call the man a genius, especially seeing as even the poster above points out that he just modified existing games of the time.

What's more I don't think he was that creative. Consider that Harry Harrison (creator of the "Stainless Steel Rat") wrote a somewhat classic science fiction satire called "Space Rats Of The CCC". CCC standing for Combat Camel Corps. , which I believe both predated Yak and was abit better known/more popular back in the 1980s. That story having been jokingly called the greatest space opera of all time (and honestly, it might be if you read the story and actually think about it).

Honestly I think the problem nowadays is that the gaming industry just keeps liscencing the rights to the same engines, reskinning them, and then reselling the same game with maybe a new gimmick or two. I mean honestly when nearly every game is basically GRAW or Unreal, or one or two others with new skins, do we REALLY need some guy to reskin say Unreal with Llamas? Would that truely be creative? That's arguably what Yak does, and exactly what is responsible for some of the problems within the industry.

-

As far as Richard Garriot goes, I believe he was not referred to as being eccentric because of going up into space. I believe the issue with him was both that he was using Ultima as a platform for his own philosophies (read a book in the back of the Gypsy Wagon at the beginning of Ultima Ascension), and the fact that he took his cameos in the game in the reverse direction as well acting as the characters from the games a bit IRL, even going so far as to host large "Brittania Manor" parties, and according to some rumors even living life for months at a time like it was some kind of ongoing SCA event.

Then he had guys like "Doctor Cat" hanging out with him for a while (Doctor Cat having been given both a character, and a major credit in Ultima 5). A guy allegedly being one of the more vocal proponents of the whole "furry" movement (and by this I mean sexual, not just artwork).

Great game developer, one of my favorites of all time, I actually weep that he has not produced any more single player Ultima games, and instead has turned to creating MMOs like Tabula Rasa (which I desperatly wanted to like, especially seeing as I'm a sci-fi fan, but just couldn't get into).

The point is though that even as a fan, I think the guy was considered a bit eccentric before the space trip thing. There has always been a bit of discussion about him.

>>>----Therumancer--->

Alright dammit, I've got to step in and defend this guy. First off, the light synthesizer is one of the most influential programs in consumer computing I can think of. His was the first, and now it's been replicated on PS1-3, XBox 1 and 360, Winamp in various incarnations, even Windows Media Player and Apple iTunes. And I applaud the man for taking our concept of gaming into the more abstract areas of perception, whether by using his light synthesis code to create a dreamy atmosphere or by replacing characters with livestock, it all manages to take the piss out of games that lately have been too interested in realism and remind us that anything is possible with a computer. I for one would much rather play Halo reskinned as Hayfield: the Llama Farmer's Legacy.

Second, watching the Google conference video linked in the article, Minter goes into a little more detail about The Zone and I think from the standpoint of interactivity this is a crucial point. There are a lot of games people have told me to play that I've tried and set down after just a couple levels because the INPUT barrier between the game and myself was too difficult. Sometimes it's more than that even, the game might handle just fine but the design elements (for example TOO MANY CUTSCENES or lots of QUICKTIME EVENTS) just don't make it interesting to play. Games like Counter-strike kept me hooked for so long (TOO long) because it puts you in the zone: the graphics feed the sound feed the player feed the game, it all works in a loop and the response between the player and the game is so fluid and rewarding that even when the game is whooping your ass you don't want to stop playing it. This feedback loop is a point that Minter makes that I don't think should be missed, and I have a feeling his updates of arcade games are more than just reskins, but also more finely tuned experiences.

 

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