Bad Day LA is Not the Development Out-Sourcing Poster Child You're Looking For
JoystickwithaQ dropped a metal glove the other day, and fearing that they may decide to come back for it and hit me with it, I decided to pick it up.
For those of you who were quick to dismiss American McGee and his street cred, now is the time for you to check out the man's work for yourself.
Now I know that this was in reference to forum posts on their own site regarding the B-list rockstar developer we all love to be apathetic about, but considering that McGee is one of my favorite targets for a quick, easy joke, I decided to take this invitation to "check out the man's work," and see if my frequent, ongoing criticism was really valid, or if I'd fallen into that old internet trap of blogging a dead horse.
I downloaded the Bad Day LA demo on Friday, forgot to install it, saw the zip on my machine this morning and decided to give it a try. After the demo installed itself and a few codecs and helper apps (I'm not kidding), I finally got my chance to see what the man-who-would-be-Romero has been doing for the past few years.
The verdict? Yeah, it pretty much sucks.
Granted, it's a demo and as they always say, not representative of the final product, but I have to be completely honest: Based on this demo, I'm no longer interested in playing the game. The graphics are lousy, the play mechanics feel out-dated, the story is kinda dumb and some of the humor is downright offensive. And coming from me, that's a hell of an indictment.
The game looks, sounds and feels like it was cooked up by a second-rate designer with very little class, style or imagination and then handed off to a bunch of programmers and artists with very little comprehension of basic game-making techniques and no creativity whatsoever. Which, strangely, is exactly how the game was made.
Straight from the mouth of the man:
U.S. game development teams are really creative, brilliant, innovative-and they're really headstrong. A guy that I'd hire to be a junior artist would try to force an idea into a game and hijack the production, throwing a major monkey wrench into the process. That's the Western development team. It's the opposite with the Chinese team. If you come up with a good idea and you give them good direction, they'll stamp it out. Problem is, they will not deviate a f***in' inch from what I say. So the challenge is coming up with enough of a good idea, and...like, I find my days are now 80 percent just giving directions. And it's really frustrating and really annoying and boring, but it works. Otherwise, I've had people following orders until there was nothing else to do. They just sit there and stare at the screen.
What he's describing is a game development studio with American McGee in the role of single creative, out-of-the-box -thinking designer, presiding over a bunch of literal-minded, culturally-brainwashed idol worshippers. American McGee Presents: Noble Savage Game Studio.
He goes on to justify his point-of-view:
I'd like to make it clear that my intention was not to ridicule or insult workers in China. I'm pointing out a clear distinction between two styles. US workers tend to be highly autonomous and self-motivated. ... Seems I didn't express the point as maturely as I could have. Might have been because (as the interview notes) I was drinking while answering. ... If you are uncomfortable with the concept of cheap, off-shore labor being used to produce the games you play, then I suggest you start making your own. ... Bad Day LA wasn't outsourced to China. It was built 100% in China.
I hope this guy never goes away. I don't really even have to write anything here. I could just reprint entire sections of his blog every single day and ride the Irony Train to Donesville.
But to those who worry that the success of "outsourced" games like Bad Day LA will create a gigantic money suck Eastward, ruining the market for US-based developers, I say: Don't worry. Bad Day LA will not be the game to trumpet that charge. That day may come, but it will not be presented by American McGee.