Jimquisition: Damn Fine Coffee

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Entitled:
I think, in a certain sense, the online community circlejerk also has it's own social desirability demands.

What do *you* want from games? "Innovation" seems to be a popular demand, that makes us all sound refined and knowledgeable, but it's one of those cases where the word ounds good on paper, but in practice, most of us would rather play a comfortably familiar genre with nicely fine-tuned mechanics, and slightly curious setting, than something with no familiarity at all.

I'd say that's right enough. We all want "innovation", but what innovations do we actually want?

Listen to those crickets, man. They be chirpin' pretty hard.

Innovation is a vague concept to most gamers, like the concept of "more" in Disney movies, as dreamt of by the incumbent Disney Princess of the moment. We want innovation because like it or not, there's a certain amount of habituation to our hobby, and we don't want to be essentially replaying the same old shit over and over. The thing is, most gamers know about jack shit in terms of game theory or narratology, so they're stuck hoping and being unable to formulate coherent wants and needs.

So what do you do to try and fit in, during a focus group? You blindly agree. Oh yeah, a cover system. Oh yeah, make it gritty; I'm maybe sure I'll possibly like that, but I can't voice my lack of certainty because we're all here for the donuts and coffee and easy 200$! Yes, make the protagonist a brown-haired male! I mean, uh, Call of Duty, right? Wanting a game to be like CoD is good, right?

Right?

Nope. Focus groups aren't the problem, the problem is that people who participate in focus groups are afraid to speak their minds. As soon as you're stuck in a group of people, fear of ridicule becomes a factor. If there's a *single* Brown FPS player in the room, you can be absolutely fucking certain that everyone else in the group will try and pander to his tastes, because *he* embodies the statistical hardcore gamer. *He* is the one guy who needs to be sold on the premise at all costs.

There's a science to making things fun to play with, and ideally, if the gaming industry wants to keep expanding, it'll have to create a generation of educated gamers who are far less passive. I'm not saying we all need to be NeoGAF or GamesIndustry fanatics, but staying in the realm of casual interest means you won't be able to contribute to any serious games-related debate. Playing does naturally impart some basic game theory tidbits, but the end result is still a gaggle of neophytes who can't really design coherent mechanics for shits and giggles.

That, I think, is the real problem. Gamers need to be educated. That way, our preferences and what we'll mention as advantageous aspects in focus groups will expand.

Speaking of people doing the same thing over and over I would like Jim to Jimquire about something different (or positive) instead of the same "Publishers are the problem." episode I have been watching for the past few weeks.

Arslan Aladeen:
To be fair in regards to "Remember Me," the publishers probably just saw it as a mediocre game and didn't want to bother.

Either way Remember Me won't sell and the dudes at the top will blame the use of a female protagonist instead of the game being shit and the fact it had very little advertising. I didn't even know it came out this week until I saw Jim on Twitter say his review for it was was out.

Perhaps a side point is that video game companies (and undoubtedly, many other companies) have stopped treating focus testing like a science experiment that has to be evaluated for biases and flaws, then refined. Instead they treat it like a tool that came out of the toolbox perfected for purpose regardless of how it's set up or used. There are ways to lessen the likelihood that players will pick what they feel to be "socially correct" rather than what they actually want; failing that, there are ways to glean what they actually want that in some instances may be more accurate than simply asking them. (If you offer people a stack of games and let them play what they want for as long as they want, and they say they're mad for Call of Duty but actually spend all their time playing Bejeweled...) Events like the aforementioned "frat boy" testing and the "Last of Us" testing that failed to include any female gamers seem like such contemptibly obvious mistakes that one had to wonder if any thought went to the process at all- or was it simply that they handed the process off sight unseen to someone unqualified and ticked off the "focus testing" check box?

Jim's gesticulating and melting into his podium in the first minute-and-a-half was wonderfully expressive.

Vault Citizen:
As an athiest who am I to thank for Jim when he descends from the mountain to deliver his truth?

Thank Jim for Jim.

I like my coffee super saturated to the point where there are always sugar and coffee crystals floating at the bottom. 2 healthy scoops of instant coffee, 3 large spoons of sugar, and about 1/4 cream if I can get it. I want to be puckering my lips when I drink my coffee.

"Like a priest with his pants down..." I love you Jim.

Toilet:
Speaking of people doing the same thing over and over I would like Jim to Jimquire about something different (or positive) instead of the same "Publishers are the problem." episode I have been watching for the past few weeks.

Arslan Aladeen:
To be fair in regards to "Remember Me," the publishers probably just saw it as a mediocre game and didn't want to bother.

Either way Remember Me won't sell and the dudes at the top will blame the use of a female protagonist instead of the game being shit and the fact it had very little advertising. I didn't even know it came out this week until I saw Jim on Twitter say his review for it was was out.

That's unfortunate, but seems to be the likely outcome. I feel like all this behind the scenes stuff and backdoor politics is one of the worst things to happen to games and movies. Can't judge anything by the actual content. Now I have to worry about what kind of person is making it and if they said some out of context remark on twitter and what impact the game has on society.

axlryder:
by the end all I could think of was

and yeah, I'd noticed this very thing that you were talking about. Back when the Wii came out I was part of a few focus groups, and discovered that most of the people in them were a bunch of idiots who clearly had no idea what they wanted. I felt like the only person there who actually had an opinion on the system, and everyone else was just kind of following the interviewers lead.

I've never heard that song in full. I never realized how good that song was, I just always got put off by the repeated and auto-tuned "Ma-ma-ma".

Muse has a fetish for riot scenes though, don't they? >.>

That said, I'm now curious about Remember Me, but after looking at its metacritic, I'm worried it's very mediocre. Also looking at the metacritic, I realized there is a population of shitty little trolls that just rate games for god knows why despite never having played it.

The sad fucking truth, Chancellor Sutler, there's nothing else to add.

Elijah Newton:
Funny thing about Coke, and focus-testing, actually.

In April 1985 the company briefly replaced the familiar Coca-Cola formula with one called "the new taste of Coke". This new formulation was not well received and after a few years was withdrawn from the market, replaced with a slight variation of the old recipe (the primary difference was that cane sugar was replaced with high-fructose corn syrup), briefly identified as "Classic Coke" before returning to its identity as simply "Coke"

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_formula, skip down to "New Coke" )

This was a pretty deliberate switch, though, driven by money. The short of it was that "New Coke" was designed to fail so Coke could win points / free publicity by pretending to cater to fans when it switched back to 'Original Coke', while disguising the change in taste that came from shifting from cane sugar to HFC. Coke needed to make that change because sugar was two to three times as expensive as HFC. Apparently the initial focus testing showed that without the intermediary, and deliberately foul, New Coke, customers would not endorse the new taste.

FWIW, the New Coke wikipedia entry lists this as a conspiracy theory ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Coke#cite_ref-Oliver183_41-1 ), which for some reason amuses me. The one or two people still reading this post may be interested in "The Real Coke, the Real Story" by Thomas Oliver ( http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-Coke-Story/dp/0140104089/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370278175&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Real+Coke%2C+The+Real+Story )

Some bottlers were already using HFCS instead of cane sugar before taking the original off the market, so I doubt that was the reason. I'm willing to believe that it's possible they introduced New Coke in order to get people passionate about "Old Coke", but I doubt it. I'm a big fan of the phrase "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

One of the primary motivations behind creating New Coke was to make it sweeter. Pepsi had always won taste tests against coke because it's sweeter, but the problem is that focus group taste tests only use a couple ounces at a time. When drinking that small amount, most people will prefer the sweeter drink. However, when drinking 12 or 20 ounces at a time, Pepsi is too sweet for many people, so they prefer Coke. So there's some more evidence that focus groups need to be handled carefully...

Don't like coffee but like Jim, thank god.

Also I'm an english tea drinker nuff said. To expand, I see games as art, true art is an impusle at the start not even an idea, a feeling, a mood, a half remebered memory that may or may not have ever been. I write badly but enjoy it I wouldn't write a book to sell the most books, I will write a story that moves my heart and soul, where or not i can convey what i feel is down to skill in said writting(or in any form of art). This all saddens me at my core.

This series is getting more and more camp with each episode. And I love it.

Jimothy Sterling:
Damn Fine Coffee

How do you like your coffee? Blacker than midnight on a moonless night? Or is that just what you want people to think?

Watch Video

Brilliant episode, Jim. One question, however.

As you talked about developers, publishers, the games industry at large...and then added coffee to both the title and the discussion...

I would've thought this would've been a given, all things considered.

OT: Developers need to grow a collective pair and tell publishers to fuck off as it concerns making the games.

Wow. Overstrike looked really cool, and in the back of my head I said "I wanna get this game NOW" Fuse however...I am very sad. Just another dull bloody game. And here I thought we would get another shooter like TF2. Then again...EA.

And to answer your question Jim- I am a pump with milk and douse with sugar/cream coffee gal(on the rare occasions I drink coffee anyway)
Now excuse me while I go back to the shame shack with all the other unsophisticated coffee enthusiasts.

Callate:
Events like the aforementioned "frat boy" testing and the "Last of Us" testing that failed to include any female gamers seem like such contemptibly obvious mistakes that one had to wonder if any thought went to the process at all- or was it simply that they handed the process off sight unseen to someone unqualified and ticked off the "focus testing" check box?

Most likely they didn't consult females because they were targeting a male audience. Seriously if 90% of the people who play this genre are male then getting feedback from female gamers is likely to make your product worse as it won't be as focused on your core audience.

I don't know what sort of changes you'd need to make to Call of Duty to make it as popular with girls as Angry Birds but these changes will probably be hated by the people who like Call of Duty because it will radically alter this game.

I worked for a focus group company a few years ago. People would sign up to be apart of our database, give us some details (age, income, whatever), and we'd get contacts from companies who wanted to do market research.

The years I worked there... I have never seen a survey group that was polled just to get an idea. Every survey was carefully put together to get the maximum amount of people who would probably already like the product. IE if it was a Merlot company, they would only want to hear from red wine drinkers.

The companies defeat themselves. They see what they want, but do not realize that the product they want to emulate is already out on the market... so there's little room for them. Why lose out on sales from a market you hope to tap into at the cost of sales that you already generated the hype from? To tap in Call of Duty, they lost most of the goodwill they created. And didn't tap into Call of Duty. Why do these people still get placed in positions of leadership?

That depresses me, the game you showed at the beginning looked awesome, and, seeing what it's become... eugh.

And while we're talking Coffee: Personally, I actually do enjoy black coffee, but I'm not particularly picky about it, either. I'll drink it from just about anywhere, from the most pretentious cafe in town to my local Sonic and McDonalds. As long as it doesn't taste like sand, then I'm all good.
I started drinking it around the time I was watching Twin Peaks, and I've been a happy camper ever since.

Wait, Jim, did you use Bioshock: Infinite as an example of focus-group driven vomit or a product of pure, unrestrained vision? Because it sounded like you used both.
I was part of a focus group to test out an unfinished version of STAR WARS: Battlefront II, and I had a blast! We played a mission, mentally jotted down what went wrong, and told the developers what needed fixing. We also voted on which commercial to use. And we gots paid, son! So, in space battles, when they point out where on the enemy capital ship to launch missiles or drop bombs, that's partially thanks to me.

GonzoGamer:
I think a lot of the pretentiousness we see in games (especially "story driven" games) is also thanks to this social desirability bias. I think many people want to sound like the kind of person who wants to play a slow moving "story driven" game like Heavy Rain because then people might think they're not the kind of gamer that goes onto CoD shouting slurs.

It's probably the same reason everyone thinks all guys want a skinny girl with long hair and big boobs. I know for a fact that there are a lot of guys who try really hard to get that kind of girl just because they want to seem like an alpha male. I find that's it's the most obnoxiously vocal ones that are the ones trying to convince everyone.

I dig the merchandising Jim's decked in this week: nice mug & tshirt.

Hmm, I didn't think of that before. What do you mean when you say "pretentious"? I get the feeling it means that the game's story is calling you the player an awful person, or something like that.

captcha: OSCARS
If this was a MovieBob video, I'd have a more clever comeback to that.

As far as i can tell, videogeme publishers and developers just don't know how to work with focuss groups. Wich is quite sad. Because we've covered all sides of working with them at 3d year in university, wich means that people who work on game marketing are incompetent as hell. =(

Hey wait, so...

>companies use kids to test products

>products are rated M

Isn't that like...i dunno....a crime?

image

Okay, got that out of my system. :p Onto the video.

EA RUINED IT THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED TO OVERSTRIKE! Insomniac should have stuck with Sony for their publisher, or at least gone with absolutely anyone else other than EA. Fuse is a big steamy pile of shit and I blame it solely on EA because after 3 generations of playing great Insomniac games, I know what kind of awesome games they're capable of making when not under the thumb of the most evil game publisher in existence.

HAHAHA, loved the bit about how the game industry chases smooth young boys like a priest. XD Also, nice GTA mug.

Jimothy Sterling:
How do you like your coffee? Blacker than midnight on a moonless night? Or is that just what you want people to think?

Well since you asked, I prefer a light roast and I take it black. Medium is okay in a pinch. I never really developed a taste for dark roasts. Though I wouldn't mind trying a robusta coffee someday.

Delicious Coffee

I was browsing through the Battlelog forums one day (please, I beg you, don't make that same mistake), and saw a massive amount of threads asking to put a Zombies-type mode in Battlefield. The most common explanation given (okay, second most, because a majority didn't bother justifying the need) was "Coz Call of Duty has one."

I glanced over at my gaming collection, noticed more than five zombie shooting experiences (seven if you count ones without "Dead" in the title, and wept openly about the thought of another goddamn zombie game because "That's what the kids like."

Then I saw today's Jimquisition, and sobbed some more. Well done, Jim. You've brought me to tears you magnificent bastard.

I was wondering who that was I played Overlord with online... have to get them cheivos right?

shadowstriker86:
Hey wait, so...

>companies use kids to test products

>products are rated M

Isn't that like...i dunno....a crime?

This one's making to much sense, SEDATE HIM!

And yet again he talketh the truth to the people and the people listened and heard it was the truth....

To bad it's just "the people" and not the ones deciding to make crap games...

I think they should use focus groups to see what the shouldn't be making, in other words what the focus group liked, try do the opposite and see what happens...
Like I wonder what "focus group" thought that an of the following would be successful Minecraft, Angry Birds, PvZ, Bastion, Journey and so on... They are no where near CoD... And I REALLY want Mirrors Edge 2, and I really don't care that "the focus groups didn't like it", Strong female lead, very different FPS (with clumsy annoying shooting), and well some sort of story to get you form point A to point B, I would probably pay to see that pitched to a "focus group" or executive...

And I think Mojang (sure they are small) are doing most right, they are listening to much of what their fanbase wants and gives it to them. Is it really that hard to scale up to "AAA" games?...
Sell a Beta at a lower price, then listen to what the (dumb ;-) people whom bought it thinks and fix it...

Darth_Payn:
Wait, Jim, did you use Bioshock: Infinite as an example of focus-group driven vomit or a product of pure, unrestrained vision? Because it sounded like you used both.

The game itself was a product of pure, unrestrained vision. The MARKETING for the game (re: box art, TV adverts, etc) was the product of going wrist deep into a frat boy's anus and sniffing your hand afterwards to see what they like.

...Unless my definition of "brofist" is completely different from the actual thing.

MisterColeman:
Why are they focus testing poor college students still?

Because us college students will do anything for a free cookie or muffin. ANYTHING.

"I like my coffee black, just like my metal."

"I like my women like I like my coffee: black, bitter, and preferably free-trade."

For serious. I don't necessarily prefer a darker roast, but I fucking hate sugar and cream in my coffee. Sometimes a little dark chocolate doesn't go amiss... maybe a hint of cinnamon now and again. Also, I'm not big on drip, espresso is always better.

Oh wait, this is about games. Fuck, I hate consumer culture. I want my niche back.

Knuckleduster coffee mug is awesome.

Is it wrong that I am starting to have sexual fantasies of the Jimquisition videos becoming the new videogame developer gospel?

What's not shown immediately after the end credits roll is Jim doing a spit-take after realizing he left a trout in the percolator. Still, that was some damn good cherry pie. Just don't make eye contact with the log-lady across the counter...

GonzoGamer:
I think a lot of the pretentiousness we see in games (especially "story driven" games) is also thanks to this social desirability bias. I think many people want to sound like the kind of person who wants to play a slow moving "story driven" game like Heavy Rain because then people might think they're not the kind of gamer that goes onto CoD shouting slurs.

It's probably the same reason everyone thinks all guys want a skinny girl with long hair and big boobs. I know for a fact that there are a lot of guys who try really hard to get that kind of girl just because they want to seem like an alpha male. I find that's it's the most obnoxiously vocal ones that are the ones trying to convince everyone....

Brother, that's a pretty profound start to the week. Nice going. :)

The problem with the focus groups as Jim pointed out is that they are not an accurate cross-section of the gaming community. Everyone wants the 12 year old boys who play call of duty, but the only game they care about is call of duty. If the developers spent time caring about the rest of the market (you know, the part of the market with money), they would sell more games.

Proverbial Jon:

Headdrivehardscrew:
Once again a fun Jimsterling production I can whole-heartedly enjoy without blowing any of my anti-whatever fuses. Splendid.

Oh, do get this:

"Fuse is actually the least changed of all of our IPs." Ratchet and Clank was originally a third-person, M-rated adventure game called, simply, "Girl With a Stick."

- Ted Price, CEO Insomniac

It can be accessed over at: http://www.joystiq.com/2012/09/12/ted-price-on-how-insomniacs-overstrike-became-fuse/

and it's from Sep 12th 2012. It's about the time I gave up on Overstrike and decided I didn't fancy Fuse very much, t'a.

Wow... that just makes Insomniac sound like complete idiots who simply get lucky with each franchise they put out. I suddenly feel much less respect for them.

Except it WORKED for them. You'll note he said nothing about how much publisher interference was involved in the games in question. Somehow I doubt focus groups and publisher demands were responsible for any major changes in AGWAS/R&C. Whereas you can be damned sure they were responsible for the major changes in Overstrike/Fuse.

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