A Response to John Calhoun

So Dead Space 3 producer John Calhoun, the man who made the call to include micro-transactions and week one DLC packs in the newest iteration, says, "EA leaves us alone. Almost every decision when it comes to the game is ours and ours alone, (...)We're trying to find ways to make sure that Dead Space 3 is really accessible. That doesn't mean we're going to sacrifice who we are or what the core tenets of Dead Space are in order to attract new players. Dead Space 3 shares the exact same DNA as Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2. (...) The last thing we think about is monetization."

I want to break down these sentences one by one, and analyze why what he's saying is contradictory.

- "We're trying to make sure that Dead Space 3 is really accessible."

Here's my problem, EVERY SINGLE TIME a developer says this they mean essentially one single thing, add co-op, add online multiplayer, add DLC packs, and apparently the big new thing, add micro-transactions. These are the things that the game industry now considers accessible. Look at Mass Effect.

Mass Effect numero uno was effectively a shooter-RPG, the action gameplay may have had a lot in common with Gears of War, but the heart of the system was more Diablo than anything else. Random loot? Check. Enemies give you xp and gold? check. It wasn't necessarily the best Diablo clone in the world, and a lot of people complained about the seeming uselessness behind a lot of ranks in the talent tree... but it was 2007, we were knee deep in Burning Crusade, we were still eating up long useless talent trees day in and day out, it wasn't anything new, it was just something we hadn't seen in a "shooter" before. And when the sequel came around god forbid they keep those systems that were clearly dragging their game down. Everyone knows you just can't mix a shooter and Diablo it just ends up with bad results for everyone... (Borderlands)

Of course there's one thing similar between Dead Space and EA... I mean Bioware... damn.

Anyways, we see that EA owns both companies and thus, its pretty easy to trace the fact that both games, regardless of being genre mixers beforehand and becoming a bit more shooter genre, can be traced back to the daddy company.

So if that's what it means to be accessible and we can see that Dead Space is doing the same thing that BioWare did, while under the direction of EA, it makes me question this statement.

- "EA leaves us alone. Almost every decision when it comes to the game is ours and ours alone."

Okay, sure, maybe both development teams, BioWare's and Dead Space's, decided simply to expand their audience in the same way. Its a rather strong contention that Dead Space was never all that much horror anyways, and much more shooter, a la Resident Evil 4 style.

However, even if you made the argument that two completely different game series expanding their audiences in the exact same way is a coincidence, then you couldn't argue at all at the overshadowing focus on selling five million game copies. EA, as I have shared numerous times, stated this entry has to sell five million game copies. This, paired with a lot of audience expanding features, kind of points in the direction that maybe, just maybe, the developer here doesn't have as much control as they want.

I would also point out that this is the producer who is explaining this. I'd be interested in the opinion of the Lead Developer, or one of the other developers actually working on this game, not the guy who decides how the game is going to make all of the money back.

But bottom line, whether the choice to include co-op or microtransactions was a developer or not, the fact that EA proclaimed the series dead if it doesn't push five million, makes it very obvious that this statement is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Imagine a man breaks into your home, points a gun at your head and demands that you begin writing a novel. Are you going to write the novel you want to write or the novel the man with the gun wants you to write. Now imagine the man with the gun says, "and if it doesn't sell five million copies, you're going to die." Now imagine this man just so happens to be a leader in the publishing industry, and he REALLY knows how to sell a book. Are you going to sit there and say, "fuck him, he doesn't know what he's doing." Or are you going to ask him for advice?

- " The last thing we think about is monetization."

Bull shit. You are a producer. Your JOB is to think about monetization. The questions of whether this game is going to be fun, or if this game is going to be awesome are backseat, even if they might be a contributing part of, whether this game is going to make money or not. Especially if big daddy EA is deciding how many copies you have to sell in order to live to see the light of day.

The bottom line is that EA is interested in money. If your publisher is interested in money, and you aren't, YOU AREN'T GETTING PUBLISHED.

Sure, maybe the developers aren't interested in money, they probably want to make the best possible game they can. But who are we talking about here? We're talking about a team of guys who want to make their game, but they have to compromise in the face of publishers, producers, and a million other same-faced white-collar office workers who are doing their job. Its dirty, and it is corrupting the sense of art that Dead Space could accomplish.

I realize that of all the things, we're talking about Dead Space here, but again, I draw the Mass Effect reference.

Mass Effect, before Mass Effect 2, felt unique not because of the dialogue wheel, but because it really was one of the very first shooter-RPGs we got to experience. The menu was a little messed up, the equipment was a little repetitive, but they didn't really try very hard to implement those things. And when the sequel came around they didn't try to make those things better, they just cut them. And this had the exact effect it was intended to have. It made the game simpler, it opened it up to people who got confused by menus and decisions.

Decisions are hard.
Mass Effect 2 continued its wonderful story and conversations, meanwhile the gameplay suffered. There was no planet exploration, no tactics for the gun fights (admittedly I played a Soldier on Normal Difficulty), no true mold breaking stuff, which was what the first Mass Effect did.

We exist in a medium that is not about REMOVING features in sequels. We have always been about making gameplay better. Don't believe me? Go look at the playstation 2 Grand Theft Auto Games. The amount of innovations and gameplay improvements from game to game just got better and better.

Now I admit, perhaps Dead Space is getting better and better sequel to sequel, but when something does improve, I want to know in my heart that its better not because these features were included to sell the game to me, but because this is the vision of several artists who put their heart and soul into a product. Not because they had to sell five million copies.


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