Jimquisition: Damn Fine Coffee

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I actually like Hot Chocolate and Tea over Coffee so yeah. I'm a rebel with as many Dragon Quest games as I can carry.

A little tale to illustrate how focus groups should be used.

Several years ago I was a marketing manager at a shopping mall and the supervisor insisted in making a focus group to see what kind of store we should bring to the mall. A lot of people said that they wanted store X (a sportswear brand) and the super was intent on inviting that same store to the mall.

But this is how I read it:
. We have a lot of sportswear fans at the mall that are not buying sportswear stuff here because they are already buying elsewhere. Their loyalty is already elsewhere and to change that is an uphill battle.

Conclusion:
. Let's bring another sportswear brand that people never heard of. It is novel but aligned with our costumers tastes. They say they want brand X because it is all they know. The new sportswear store was a huge success.

In the words of Henry Ford: If I've had done exactly what people want me to do I would have given them a faster horse.

Jst to finish my thoughts: Focus groups data are data for interpretation not to follow blindly.

I actually love black coffee, if the beans are good. Preferably Ethiopian or Brazilian, always fair-trade. If I'm getting coffee from Starbucks or whatever, I add milk and splenda, but when I use my french press, I love blacker-than-midnight-on-a-moonless-night coffee. It's freaking delicious.
Yeah, I'm a coffee snob.

but... but i really do like my coffee black as midnight on a moonless night... anything weaker might as well just be coffee flavored tea, or water... anyway.. it would benefit us all if the industry started listening to you. i wonder if there's anything we can do to get that to happen. it's a damn shame if none of your words are reaching any significant ears.

You could have just made a GTA background jeez Escapist

How do you make this shit in a week? damng good content

ravenshrike:
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.

Yeah, you have a point there. From what I understand both Half Life and Halo were very different games during the iniial stages of their production. We may have ended up with far inferior games had the respective developers not decided to change things for the better.

It's just a little odd that the concept of Girl with a stick is SO different to Ratchet and Clank, I mean you'd think a game development studio would have a clear idea of the type of game they are making first.

The article linked by Headdrivehardscrew contained this line from CEO Ted Price regarding Overstrike/Fuse

Ted Price:
At the time, when we showed Overstrike in 2011, we weren't where we needed to be with the weapons. We had some cool concepts on paper and in the video, but ultimately, when we started playing the game, the weapons lacked heft, they lacked impact, and they lacked that fun factor that we believe is at the core of every one of our games.

In short, Insomniac themselves orchestrated the changes to the game, it was not a product of publisher pressure. The most baffling part of the whole thing is that Overstrike, a fun, stylised and colourful 4 player shooter, turned into Fuse, a grey, gritty, cover based shooter, because they thought the guns weren't "fun" enough. Why would you change the tone of the game so dramatically when your guns were the problem? Surely the OTT nature of Overstrike gave far more opportunity for fun guns and silly gameplay.

And this is why it's so hard to be a rational consumer. Because the entire market is skewed towards people who spend cash they don't have, on things they don't need or want, to impress people they don't even like or care about.

Keep going, Jim. While I could have said all you've said yourself, I could not have put it even remotely so well.

Darth_Payn:

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.

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.

I mean the habit of making something relatively mundane and trying too hard to make it seem like its so much more important. Like in the aforementioned Heavy Rain you have to sit and watch your character's kid eat dinner and do his homework. Doing these things with your real life kid is important when you're doing it but I would never make someone else watch and doing this with a game npc you've just met is absurdly tedious.

Or in GTA4 (minor spoiler you probably already know BTW) where they kill off that girl you went on a date with that time and expect you to get all emotional, not taking into account that you probably killed 60 people just driving to that location...on the sidewalks.

IndianaJonny:

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

You should hear me after I've smoked a couple of spliffs.
It's not all that profound when you think about it. How many people did you know in HS who tried really hard to "fit in." How many HS graduates have you met that have matured since then?

Magog1:
Jim did you seriously talk about beating a dead horse while bitching and moaning about EA?
Seriously Jim? Your teaching the same lesson with a new spin every week now.

Dear God man Diversify.

Not saying it sucks, not saying it's bad.. it's an awesome lesson... And i like reputation Lord knows i play diablo 3,

But come on man Just a little something else. I swear to God we won't all start magically respecting EA 1 week later if you shelf bitching about them just a little bit.

Pretty please?

He'll have a reason to stop talking about it when it stops being a problem. He kicked off this video with the new Insomniac trailer as evidence that this still is a problem. Also, I don't think he's had an episode completely dedicated to focus groups. He's talked about them a lot, but never gone this in depth.

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.

Dear god, all my this^^^

I hate it when people in threads don't even realize they've turned in the buzz word spewing people they're criticizing.
I hate brown shooters!
Indi games all the way!
Games need color!

Just ranting as thought putting those things into a game is some kind of magic recipe for success.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.395876-Sonic-06-Objectively-Better-Than-Portal

Best. Thread. Ever.

Entitled:

On the other hand, the reverse of this is also true, if you imagine online movie geeks as a kind of focus group, that just weren't asked by studios.

The only reason why we tend to imagine "New IP" as the pinnacle of enjoyable entertainment, is because just like with my earlier post's example of "innovation", it's one of those things that we all like to repeat in an echo-chamber as it sounds very sophisticated and intelligent.

Go to a specialized TV show or game or movie fandom, ask people what they want, and they will admit "More of our favorite thing". But ask them all in front of the Escapist forums, and they will all say "New IP", because none of them wants to admit to being That Guy who cares more about a franchise than about the Freshness of the Industry.

Personally, I've gone on record as thinking the "innovation" craze and the whole "new IP are necessary" are ridiculous, and I'll keep doing it.

Also, throw in immersion, since most people keep using that word and I don't think it means what they think it means.

The most ironic thing about this problem is that market research almost prevented Modern Warfare 1 from happening. If it wasn't for Infinity Ward practically begging Activision to give them a chance the generic modern military shooter wouldn't exist in the first place. http://uk.gamespot.com/news/activision-did-not-want-modern-warfare-infinity-ward-6232123

Once again Jim makes sense. But I'm curious how it's gotten like this. I've done so many alpha and beta tests, you'd think with the feedback companies would see the error of their ways. But really how can this happen? You don't walk into a T-Mobile store and start asking who likes T-mobile. You're supposed to get John Smith And Sally Jane on the sidewalk and see what they think. Yet it makes sense if you are targeting a certain group. With every survey I've taken I've spoken my mind as best I can. Still there's no telling if it made a difference. It's been pointed out that they shift results to favor their desired outcome. Or as mentioned they rather play it safe than go out on that limb alone. Sure the studies show if we add Unicorns and Rainbow cats to the game everyone will like it. But when the sales don't come through it's not my fault. We all saw the data. Abit lame, but innovation is risk and no one wants to try too hard. Stick to the formula.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/reviews/previews/9916-Overstrike-Becomes-Fuse

Yeah I remember when I saw that announcement. I was shocked to say the least. Who made that call? While it's nice to see that parts of Overstrike lives on in Fuse. The original idea looked so much more appealing. But it's possible it would have had the same mechanics as the current game has. Would the appearance and style have pushed the sales? Hard to say at this point.

Uh, New Coke was a massive success.

It refocused attention on the Coca Cola brand, and away from Pepsi. People were buying Coke in massive quantities and stockpiling it. And then they got to re-release Coke as "Coke Classic" to incredible sales. Meanwhile, Pepsi was left in the corner getting no publicity for their brand.

Dewrah:
I couldn't help but think of Team Fortress 2 while watching the over strike video (similar art style), which immediately made me excited, then crushed by the Fuse video. Dammit Jim!!

I couldn't help but think "what fool wouldn't want to play as this cute asskicking redhead?"

Focus testing is riddled with problems. Ever hear the phrase, "A cow is a horse designed by committee?" That's what you get when you try and make a game that pleases everyone by adding one element and taking away another. You please nobody at all.

I am a girly-girl and gay and full of cooties![1]

That is to say, I am more inclined to play a female protagonist than yet another grizzled space marine in boxy armor.

And I drink mochas. With whip. Blended if it's a warm day.

238U

[1] And you can quote me on that.

Aardvaarkman:
Uh, New Coke was a massive success. It refocused attention on the Coca Cola brand, and away from Pepsi.

Um...no. It was a well-salvaged flop.

238U

I'll expand on what Jim was talking about further with my good old friends, Kahneman and Tverski. Their work revealed that peoples tastes are NOT constant. People by their nature are irrational. That means that when people said they wanted those things in the focus groups, they may have actually wanted to see those things. But people's taste are not constant. Everyone's tastes actually change from situation to situation in completely unpredictable ways. It's the irrational mind of the average person they are trying to design a game for, and that will always lead to failure.

Edit: I do take my coffee black. But I have never met anyone like me, who actually likes to take their coffee black. That said, if you take your coffee black, you probably prefer a lighter roast, not a rich dark roast. When you add cream and sugar to your coffee, you need typically need to have a darker richer roast to even have a discernibly noticeable flavor of coffee. Focus groups are twats.

Just a thing about new Coke... didn't Coke make massive amount of cash re-releasing "traditional" coke back into the wild? And the people went nuts over this old thing they had loved, released as new again, at a massive mark-up, because when the new thing came out all trace of what we loved was...well not scorched from the earth, but my point is the console market now is like the soda market of the mid to late 80's

I do like my coffee dark roasted, but it's because I can get away with using less grounds to make a good flavored coffee. I also don't drink it with milk or sugar, but I usually have something to go with it like a muffin. I find black coffee helps when I've got the flu because it seems that I can starve the virus of sugar and kick it within 4 days, if not sooner.

All I want to know is how Overstrike became... that thing. 'Tis a sad day indeed.

Zeles:
I think that developers and publishers should sit down together and ask eachother: What would be fun?

What will make this game more enjoyable to play?

That's a good question to ask. Unfortunately, the publishers are more interested in making money rather than making a quality game. And that's because:

geizr:
Game publishers are looking for a magic silver-bullet that will magically make massive profits as a result of no, or, at best, extremely minimal, effort on their part. Unfortunately for them, not just bullet exists.

Exactly. Quality requires effort, plain and simple. If you don't pour your heart and soul into a game, chances are good it's gonna suffer for it.

I actually do prefer a dark roast...But then coat the beans in chocolate and freeze them for later.
Mmm...delicious.

Of course the biggest publishers are going to lean heavily on bias focus groups; they're all chasing that magic demographic that buys the same bloody game every bloody year without fail. Why? Because Activision's competitors are starting to fail; they're panicking and in their panic the most logical thing to do is to find out whatever is working for the guy in first, and copy it relentlessly.

By far, Activision-Blizzard is at the top of the AAA totem pole, with the most healthy revenue. Revenue that is generated almost entirely from just TWO mega cash cows. TWO.
Outside of Skylanders, I literally cannot think of another Activision title apart from CoD4.x.

What does this tell the other publishers?
"Well, if Activision-Blizzard can make megabucks on two Golden Geese, we can too!"

Failing to realize that in a creative information-based medium, DISTINCTION has more value. EA can copy CoD4.x down to the polished animations, but they cannot ever distinguish themselves by doing so, and thus, it can never hit the same marks as CoD4.x.

Same thing happened in the MMO genre. How many games blatantly copied World of Warcraft? From the stupid quest givers with glowing punctuation marks over their heads, to the toon-cel graphics to the arrangement of the interface?
You know how many of those clones knocked WoW off its perch and poached all of that sweet effortless subscription money?
NONE. NOT A SINGLE FUCKING ONE.

The AAA Publishers are lost and confused; they have known so many years of effortless success that they just don't know what to do anymore, so the suits fall back to copying whatever is most popular to the exclusion of everything else.
And because of this, I don't really care if I miss out on the majority of titles they release because chances are good that I've seen it all before.

Reyold:
All I want to know is how Overstrike became... that thing. 'Tis a sad day indeed.

EA happened.

My hot drinks are always milky, with one sugar, I couldn't drink them any other way.

This episode really opened my eyes too. Publishers still actually use focus groups? They're insane. That's like holding an election but only letting 30 random people vote. What is the fucking point?

anyone know the specific song used in the background as jim talks? i tried looking for it via the artist but to no avail

Atmos Duality:

Failing to realize that in a creative information-based medium, DISTINCTION has more value. EA can copy CoD4.x down to the polished animations, but they cannot ever distinguish themselves by doing so, and thus, it can never hit the same marks as CoD4.x.

Same thing happened in the MMO genre. How many games blatantly copied World of Warcraft? From the stupid quest givers with glowing punctuation marks over their heads, to the toon-cel graphics to the arrangement of the interface?
You know how many of those clones knocked WoW off its perch and poached all of that sweet effortless subscription money?
NONE. NOT A SINGLE FUCKING ONE.

If there is one thing I've learned about trying to work for this industry, from what I've been observing, it's that being both a rational (as well as clever and astute) businessman and a gamer (or have good gamer knowledge) is a fundamental requirement to survive in this industry, with a chance of actually succeeding. Doesn't hurt to throw in some psychological knowledge to help your chances considerably.

Maybe that's the reason publishers are so dependent on things like focus tests, cause that's all they really know how to do, handle business, and even then they're bad at it, especially in gaming with the way they "control" the variables in their own tests.

I find it odd how gamers are stuck in the position of dealing with publishers that rely too much on focus groups while those that make the consoles don't listen to a lick of what we say at all.

I like my coffee like I like my women.

Ground up and in the freezer.

Lets hope greenlight and kickstarter can help alleviate the problem of publishers wasting tons of money on some mediocre vanilla broad appeal game, then spending tons more money telling us how awesome their mediocre vanilla broad appeal game is, then are shocked when their mediocre vanilla broad appeal game is received by us as a mediocre vanilla broad appeal game, and the reviews are ,"Meh."

CyberMachinist:

If there is one thing I've learned about trying to work for this industry, from what I've been observing, it's that being both a rational (as well as clever and astute) businessman and a gamer (or have good gamer knowledge) is a fundamental requirement to survive in this industry, with a chance of actually succeeding. Doesn't hurt to throw in some psychological knowledge to help your chances considerably.

Maybe that's the reason publishers are so dependent on things like focus tests, cause that's all they really know how to do, handle business, and even then they're bad at it, especially in gaming with the way they "control" the variables in their own tests.

Maybe they are stuck in their ways; I mean, this latest console generation was the most profitable of all in gaming history; that's pretty solid reinforcement for behaviors that worked before.

Of course, things change, and they don't know what to do except blindly chase what still seems to work.

To use a (bad) analogy:
Instead of planting a variety of crops, they are instead tilling and retilling the same fields in the hopes that their bland grain will somehow stand out among all the other bland grains because one particular kind of bland grain always manages to sell well. And when their bland grain yields fail to meet their sales expectations, they try again, and again. And again.

All the while, failing to realize that they can work a particular field with a particular crop only so many times before its yields fail entirely.

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.

Yes. Y'know what I want in a game? The same things I've liked all along. I like to talk to npcs and read flavor text and be given free reign at some point (though don't over do it and get me lost or give me 7,000 things to do - all opposite ends of the map all the time - before breakfast) characters I can relate to, laugh at, become entirely too attached to, or genuinely hate. Fantasy setting preferred over Sci-Fi. but a well done entry in the second category is better than a poorly done offering from the first. A new thing I like is: let me play a girl because I am one and that's way cool for me when I get to be one digitally too - but not if it's going to botch up the whole thing you already have going or something, if you've got a good enough vision I'll take a walk with you in my dude strut. Don't ever make me do anything with the controller other than push the buttons (and we know where the right places are for what by now, so use those - don't get fancy and reverse them for giggles on me without letting me control that setting to put it right!). I like DLC - I like content that extends my gameplay and makes the game worth another play to enjoy, more specifically. Yes, I will shell out $5 for your extra baubles and outfits and trinkets, but you better have something more than the fluff incoming to keep me putting your disc into my console so that actually happens and I don't miss all that by totally not caring anymore. Stop trying to take away my ability to make a hard save - autosave is nice and well and good, as a complement to - not a replacement for - the hard save in my book.

Most importantly - if you're going to make a game I don't like: good for you! I don't have to like every single game ever published, including yours. Sell to the people who want to buy what you wanted to make. If that's me, super! If that's some other Escapist, also super! Sometimes it will be both of us, but it doesn't and shouldn't have to be every time. Stop homogenizing the things I like into things I don't like - the average that results is me liking the things less overall and that's a bummer for me. And a bummer for the people who really love the games I hate, who are stuck with stuff I like now in their games - which they no doubt hate.

Also: Coffee is for flavoring the milk that is for delivering sugar when I drink of cup of that stuff.

It's so weird, I hear people complaining that they want oneline multiplayer for all KINDS of games, but I have to wonder, how many of them are going to use it? I never use online multiplayer, so I don't pretend that a game should have it.

So once again, Jim speaks the truth! Thank God for Jim!

Is it just me, or is anyone else having trouble with the video refusing to load after about 56 seconds? I have FiOS, and every other site (including other escapist videos) is working fine. It's just this video. I tried CTRL-F5ing, too, to no avail.

The coffee industry has programmed people to want a "rich dark roast" for the same reason the gaming industry wants "cover based shooters", that's what they want to sell.

If consumers can be programmed to believe they want a "rich dark roast" the coffee companies can sell blends with a high percentage of robusta beans. Anyone who actually knows anything about coffee will explain to you that "robusta" is coffee-speak for "cheap shitty beans from Thailand and Vietnam". Often sold under cover as "fair trade" coffee these beans have a very strong flavor, but they taste like ass. If you roast the hell out of them, though, the burnt taste at least partially covers up the ass taste and you can "blend" in a small amount of light roast arabica to make a drinkable cup of mud.

Real coffee drinkers prefer arabica beans. These beans have a milder flavor, but they actually taste good and can therefore support the lighter roast most coffee drinkers actually prefer (whether, as Jim has so eloquently noted, they admit it or not). Unfortunatly for the coffee companies arabica beans are also much more expensive than robusta beans, and the consumers that buy them are savvier. This means at retail "100% Arabica" may cost more than a "blend", but it brings in a much smaller margin.

The game industry already makes cover based shooters. It's just easier to keep reskinning them than it is to actually try something new.

I cant help but feel Planetside 2 did this.

It keeps fumbling around trying to be an answer to Battlefield 3, and every single update is more hats and cosmetics rather than fix the very broken balancing between infantry-tanks-air.

AA too easy , too powerful? Lol nope, you gotta deal with it.
Anti tank too plentiful and powerful? Lol nope.

Now they want to add bubbles over bases so vehicles have no reason to be spawned ever. Might as well be call of duty.

All of this because Higby and team think Call of Duty infantry fights can save their dying MMO. There was a time when games were made with foresight, and actual thought. It seems this isn't the world we live in anymore.

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