Life After Doom - Video Games' Visionaries

Life After Doom - Video Games' Visionaries

This week, Yahtzee talks about some of the video games industry's greatest visionaries.

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I just want to point out the same I did during your Daikatana review:

Read this book:
image
It is entertaining, interesting, and a great read for those of us that care about the story behind stuff, including all the characters Yahtzee mentions in this piece

A lot of games that are fun to play were designed by people who had fun while making the games. Neversoft with Guitar Hero for example said that they could barely get their work done because they would "test" their games for too long. In your review for Daikatana it was obvious John Romero was too busy trying to impress people to be fun. Similarly, we have the corporate committee designed games that suck all the interesting qualities out of their products so they can "reach a broader audience", without giving a second thought to whether their changes are fun or not.

I really don't think a game's future hinges on a single man's artistic vision or a committee's design, all that matters is that they (whoever they, or she/he is) keeps fun as the games central tenant. Which by the way, I've been playing Consuming Shadow lately and the leveling system really brings out the impulsive need for me to try again. After dying and getting a level up I think, "Well now that I have more health I HAVE to try again!" That kind of rewarding upgrade system doubled with the rogue-like elements keep things fresh and entertaining. The only problems with the game being the clunky controls and sub-par art and sound, which obviously are that way because you're focusing on the gameplay and story first.

I hope you're still investing in your game, I think it has potential and would love permission to do a LP on it.

A smaller team basically means less conflicting opinions and probably a more focused game. Of course that could never happen in today's AAA industry, but oh well.

Daikatana, and it's status as a sort of tentpole example of auteurism gone wrong.

it's status.

it's.

YOU WOT MATE?

---

On-topic: iD had amazing people working for it, and with the exception of Romero and McGee, none of them really seemed to have a big ego trip in later years. John Carmack is in fact one of the devs in gaming who I think deserves the most respect... he is a proponent of open source, a very talented coder, and by all accounts a good guy to be around.

Video games, by nature, usually have to be made by more than one person. It's like setting up a good band, I think. Vocalist, base, guitar, drums and everyone's focus is on their own instruments but when they all gel well, that's when the music comes together. Carmack on graphics, McGee on art, Hall on story and atmosphere, Romero on gameplay (not saying that's how it was divied up in reality, just an example) and the whole team gelled well enough for Doom and Quake to happen. Maybe the problem post id was allowing them to run the whole show without the right people to shore up their weaknesses.

*Puts on flamesuit*

Similar to how the Japanese Dark Souls is the best WRPG, the American Anachronox is the best JRPG ever made.

American McGee, nationality, ho hahaha, that was a good one. If you keep using it I promise to laugh every time I read it.
While it doesn't stop people from buying a game once they find out who worked on it, one person on a developer team no longer has the same amount of power that they once did. I'm not exactly sure if that's a good or bad thing, though.

American McGee has long championed outsourcing all the work to cheap offshore devs. And you really can tell. I think some of his other stuff could have been okay if he had a good dev team and someone willing to do some testing and say 'this sucks, it needs refinement'.

Okay, that's faint praise.

RA92:
*Puts on flamesuit*

Similar to how the Japanese Dark Souls is the best WRPG, the American Anachronox is the best JRPG ever made.

Anachronox is essentially a JRPG? Hmmm, colour me interested. I'll have to try it.

OT: Committee made games, as Doom evidences, can be interesting and excellent. You just need the right people, with the right work chemistry, and freedom from the kind of meddling that can get in the way of a vision.

I'm pretty sure it is more meddling by higher ups then the committees actually making the games that give us grey suits.

Way too much misinformation in this article to comment on it all.
But a few things
Tom Hall left id not because of gore, but because of overarching design differences. He wanted to make storydriven and detailed mission driven worlds for doom, while the rest of the team wanted to keep it simple and overall visceral. You can read Tom Hall's doom bible to see what his vision for Doom was.

John Carmack wasn't arrested for stealing computers. He was arrested for breaking into a computer lab with his friends to use the computers (when noone was looking).

The article insinuates that Doom was designed by committee. Which was obviously false. While it was a free environment to let all developers on the team do their thing. It was still all directed by John Romero. The debacle with Hall (who was the original game designer of id) being kicked out in favor of Romero's vision for the game only cements that. Quake for instance was hindered in it's progress because of Romero's inability to lead the team in a more ambitious project that required more specific narrated direction. Eventually Carmack took hold of the ship called Quake and steered it towards being a lot more like Doom than it was originally intended. Just so it could be finished sometime in the forseeable future.

And Quake 2 is fucking awesome god damn it. It's got one of the most seminal tech art-designs in gaming history and the game play is exceptional.

Lear'sFool:

RA92:
*Puts on flamesuit*

Similar to how the Japanese Dark Souls is the best WRPG, the American Anachronox is the best JRPG ever made.

Anachronox is essentially a JRPG? Hmmm, colour me interested. I'll have to try it.

It's a lovely little game that keeps cropping up in the general consciousness every once in a while. It's a game where your mouse pointer suffers from an existential crisis and and one of your party members is a... well, planet.

Another thing created by a small team of people who each went on to be auteur creators in their own right: Monkey Island. Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, Dave Grossman. Gilbert quit midway through the series to start Humongous Entertainment and make kids' edutainment games like Freddy Fish and Backyard Sports that are still beloved to this day, but he hasn't done anything of note lately at all. Schafer was the head of LucasArts' adventure game division until it got axed, and then made a succession of still-quirky but less and less interesting games but still retains a decent fanbase. So basically he's the American Suda51. And Grossman worked at Humongous for a while before founding Telltale, the last bastion of point-and-click-'em-ups until he got bored with that and switched to making glorified visual novels.

None of them really fell from grace, but they haven't done anything nearly as significant as what they'd come up with when they were working together. And it's clear that the camaraderie between them accounted for a good part of what made Monkey Island work: It was originally going to be a serious game, but they enjoyed the silly jokes they made during development so much that they decided to make them part of the finished product, and the rest is history.

Wan Shi Tong:
A lot of games that are fun to play were designed by people who had fun while making the games. Neversoft with Guitar Hero for example said that they could barely get their work done because they would "test" their games for too long. In your review for Daikatana it was obvious John Romero was too busy trying to impress people to be fun. Similarly, we have the corporate committee designed games that suck all the interesting qualities out of their products so they can "reach a broader audience", without giving a second thought to whether their changes are fun or not.

I really don't think a game's future hinges on a single man's artistic vision or a committee's design, all that matters is that they (whoever they, or she/he is) keeps fun as the games central tenant.

This is probably also a good part of why Valve works so well despite being probably about the same size as other AAA dev teams and having no oversight to boot, which you'd think would lead to even more design-by-committee problems than most teams suffer from. They make the games they enjoy playing, and while that means we have to wait forever for them to get tired of playing video games all day and actually finish making them, at least it means they've been stress-tested not only for balance and stability, but for long-term enjoyability.

Wan Shi Tong:
A lot of games that are fun to play were designed by people who had fun while making the games. Neversoft with Guitar Hero for example said that they could barely get their work done because they would "test" their games for too long. In your review for Daikatana it was obvious John Romero was too busy trying to impress people to be fun. Similarly, we have the corporate committee designed games that suck all the interesting qualities out of their products so they can "reach a broader audience", without giving a second thought to whether their changes are fun or not.

I think this is really the key, whenever I hear about devs playing a game to death while making it the game often ends up amazing and quite enjoyable, clearly it's because the team was enjoying their job. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a great example of this, fun game made by people who sat down and played the origional to learn what was fun about it and what they could/should change, the result was one of my personal favorite games in the last 5 years atleast.

Captcha - "Walk the plank" - But I don't wanna :-(

Lear'sFool:

RA92:
*Puts on flamesuit*

Similar to how the Japanese Dark Souls is the best WRPG, the American Anachronox is the best JRPG ever made.

Anachronox is essentially a JRPG? Hmmm, colour me interested. I'll have to try it.

It has excellently hilarious writing and like RA92 said the characters are amazing (another one of your party member's ability is to go on what basically amounts to a 'back in my day' rant). The only real flaw I've found with it is that the designers forgot to pause time whenever your characters can attack so enemies can attack during your 'turn' and they seemingly always have priority over you so you're rushing every turn. That and you have to do quite a bit of back tracking in the 'run around and talk to people bits' (which is 75% of the game). Also some of the minigames are a pain to do. That being said, it's totally worth picking up just for the writing.

Tom Hall actually made Brutal Doom?, holy shit!, now it makes SO much sense now!. As some would say, "the more you know".

Also, I keep coming back to American McGee's Alice (2000) once in a while, though it might get a little too frustrating at times, it's still a lot of fun!.

And I absolutely LOOOOVE Cheshire Cat's design and voice in that game :)

Also, "Quake 2 a dull mess"... ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKING MIND!??.

EDIT: Uh... I guess I was fooled by Yahtzee's sarcastic, dry british humor :/

RA92:
*Puts on flamesuit*

Similar to how the Japanese Dark Souls is the best WRPG, the American Anachronox is the best JRPG ever made.

Pretty much.

With Anachronox it's all about the story, though. The combat was fairly tedious even by JRPG standards.

stringtheory:
The only real flaw I've found with it is that the designers forgot to pause time whenever your characters can attack so enemies can attack during your 'turn' and they seemingly always have priority over you so you're rushing every turn.

That was actually intentionally mirroring Final Fantasy's Active Time Battle system.

SupahGamuh:
Tom Hall actually made Brutal Doom?, holy shit!, now it makes SO much sense now!. As some would say, "the more you know".

Yahtzee was kidding. Note the preceding 'perhaps' in that sentence.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
I guess he wasn't completely averse to gore as a concept. Maybe he was arguing that there should have been more gore in Doom and creeped everyone out. Perhaps today he is better known as Sergeant Mk. IV, the guy who does the Brutal Doom mod.

Yahtzee, if Anachronox failed to leave a lasting impression on you I can only conclude you were drunk/stoned out of your mind, or had been undergoing a lobotomy at the time...

Also, Quake 2 > Painkiller, so stop shitting on Carmack or stop waking off Painkillers metaphorical penis.

I say that Doom was designed by a team, which is not the same as a committee. A committee has members from various departments and those departments run semi-independently with their own responsibilities, funding and agendas. Committee members are chosen for their abilities in office politics, advancing their and their department's agendas in competition with other agendas, more than their design skills. Whereas team members are focused on the same goal and have the same funding. Teams tend to form organically by members who respect each other's talents, rather than being constructed by directors.

Of course, teams can fall apart as members have differing visions, as demonstrated by Tom Hall within the Doom team.

So I say a good game can be designed by a single auteur with his subordinates, or a team of auteurs who are committed to the same goal and can work with each other despite artistic differences. It helps if they're friends. Much like musicians.

I hope you're going to continue the list of game auteurs next week, because you left off Warren Spector, the man to thank for Deus Ex by leading the section of game designers at Ion Storm who knew what they were doing.
Then again, looking through his wikipedia page, I found Spector did not work on DOOM, QUAKE, or anything at id. I just thought nothing about Ion Storm should leave out Spector. So if you are doing more game auteurs, they don't have to be former DOOM team members.

Yahtzee Croshaw:

You can party in a black suit, you can party in a white suit, but a grey suit? Good for meeting the girlfriend's parents, maybe.

Ha! Shows what this guy knows about fashion!

Lear'sFool:

RA92:
*Puts on flamesuit*

Similar to how the Japanese Dark Souls is the best WRPG, the American Anachronox is the best JRPG ever made.

Anachronox is essentially a JRPG? Hmmm, colour me interested. I'll have to try it.

It's for $1.49 at GOG for the next 21 hours. Good time to try it out, I guess.

OT: I think the best combination is if you have an auteur kept in check by a committee. If you give too much creative control to one person and leave them unchecked, the resulting product is often a bit of a mess (Peter Molyneux and, to an extent, Tim Schafer both exhibit this problem). They keep adding to the project to fulfill their grand vision, and then suddenly all hell breaks loose because they've burnt through all the resources. Whatever's ready gets a bit of a dusting and has to be rushed to the shelves.

American McGee's Alice, one of the most memorable games I've played from that era. If you haven't experienced this game you are missing out. Be use to vote for it on GOG, http://www.gog.com/wishlist/games/american_mcgees_alice

 

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