146: Inside David Jaffe's Heartland

Inside David Jaffe's Heartland

"Early reports said Heartland would be a game that could make you cry - the Holy Grail of game developers from EA's early days to Steven Spielberg today. 'On one hand, it was supposed to be emotional,' says Jaffe. 'We wanted players who are sensitive types like myself - that cry at Hallmark commercials - we were hoping that those types would actually cry, and that other players would still feel something that came close to an emotional response.'"

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Good article but...

"Speaking personally about Heartland, Jaffe says that he finally got the need to do something more than entertain people out of his system. "For me, it allowed me to see and embrace that - at least now in my career - I'm not only OK, but thrilled to be working towards a Michael Bay version of a videogame maker."

That really bums me out. He had enough clout to try, and now he's pulling a Ken "Make the Plot as Dumb as Possible" Levine and giving up on tough, hard-hitting stories in video games. Another one bites the dust I guess.

Heartland sounds like the game i want to play, infact i would buy a sony console to play it.

I do hope that it gets revived.

"Game designers come up with ideas every day. Lots of ideas. Sometimes those ideas get pitched."

I'd say that the vast majority of them are small ones, often add-ons to the bigger ones, which come much more periodically, all composing a coherent soup in the end.
A lot of the thinking often deals with implementation and finding solutions, which we could still call ideas in certain cases, but not the conceptual ones then. More... methodical ideas, to solve problems.

This article is interesting as it really outlines how motivation, personnal objectives and gaming tastes are relevant elements.
You won't obtain the best from an individual if he or she is not interested, or not curious about the concept you will have him or her working on.
Thankfully, most companies know how it is important to stress on motivation.

Of course, it's rather absurd to think that everyone should have an interest in everything. We're individuals, with tastes, and even if you should be open minded, you can't help but favour certain things, and be better at anything related to them. I mean, unless you're the fruit of some top secret governmental polymath breeding project, you're certainly ought to come out as the average Joe and having very distinctive tastes and abilities in particular domains. This is a factor which has to be considered.

Somehow, this article highlights how even the best out there are open to some significant mistakes (a pity, I'd loved trying that Heartland).
Quering the interests of the ones who are going to work with you, the ones who are going to implement what is generally your design, your vision, or the vision of the group you belong to, is very important.
This is not about having the speech skills of a politician (super communication skills my ***), and knowing if they like vanilla or prefer cats to dogs, but just being cool and asking simple relevant questions, kindly, to those who matter in the end.
Even the shy one, behind his comp', over the third row, you need to know what he likes, somehow.

Where this all little fine pink tinted story falls apart I think, is when you're starting to deal with greater numbers, larger teams. Then, leads and managers are supposed to make the bridge.
You have to know that everyone is with you, everybody's going in the same direction. If they don't care much about the design, don't share the enthusiasm, and are just keeping an eye on the clock, or thinking they could be used just as well on any other kind of project, there's surely a problem there, maybe motivational, or else.

Even if I'd loathe the idea that every single mind has to put aside personnal preferences -- it's stupid, we're certainly not wanting a hivemind here, but a sum of the talents and experiences -- it's rather clear that the more one gets closer to a mercenary mentality (I do my job well, I don't ask questions), this is going to hurt somehow.
It doesn't mean the talent isn't there, far from it, but it means the passion, I think that's the word, is not in the right basket.
It's like having each of the four wheels of a car steering towards different directions. This surely must suck if you plan to get somewhere in one piece, especially under schedule.

Now, it would be most foolish to think that you could obtain the same level of motivation from all workers, but what matters here is the average. Obviously with Heartland's case, the balance was clearly shifting in favour of getting the job done (properly I assume), rather than being concerned emotionally by the prospect of working on that very design and getting excited by it.

It does not mean the Ingognito guys would never like any other idea, but it's just that this one wasn't their cup of tea, and this obviously counted a lot (along the other sort of polite defecting going on steadily).

Thanks for sharing the anecdote.

L.B. Jeffries:
Good article but...

"Speaking personally about Heartland, Jaffe says that he finally got the need to do something more than entertain people out of his system. "For me, it allowed me to see and embrace that - at least now in my career - I'm not only OK, but thrilled to be working towards a Michael Bay version of a videogame maker."

That really bums me out. He had enough clout to try, and now he's pulling a Ken "Make the Plot as Dumb as Possible" Levine and giving up on tough, hard-hitting stories in video games. Another one bites the dust I guess.

I think this has to be understood as a follow up to his own reply to Cory Barlog, about the goal of design and game development.
I find myself thinking both of them have opinions relying on valid points, and the truth is somewhere in between. We need both.
Now, I concur, it's rather puzzling to see Jaffe looking so... jaded, as much as he's returning to more arcade flavoured games now, when he may have never gotten a better opportunity at making games like Heartland.

I think with time, he might see things a bit differently. They probably need their new studio getting solid and confident about their abilities and goals before attempting anything greater.

A good article but I'm also saddened that you are happy to now be just a Michael Bay of video games, not just because I think Mr Bay should take a long walk off a short plank (I can never forgive him for turning Transformers into Dawson's Creek with robots) but because in these days of tired franchises and the thousandth sequel there are so few people who actually seem to be trying to push the industry forward and tackle issues outside of what is normally considered videogame 'fodder'

Let's not distress. Jaffe has made his decision, and it's his to make. Don't tell me you don't enjoy Michael Bay movies.

But one day, soon, some smaller developer will come out of nowhere with an intense, politically charged game that will challenge the beliefs of its players and tear our hearts out. Maybe "Imagination..." will be that game. Maybe it will be some thing else. It'll come in due time. It just probably won't come from a large studio.

That is so sad. It's a shame that we'll never get to play this game, it sounds like it had a message from which we could still afford to learn.

 

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