Letters to the Editor

Extra Life


In response to “Formula futurist” from The Escapist Forum: I was the producer on Wipeout 2097, and the producer/co-designer on Quantum Redshift. It’s great to know that those games were loved as much as they were, so thanks for the article.

If you want something new, that still pushes all the future racer buttons, then you should really try my most recent title “GripShift” on the PlayStation3 (downloadable title, only $10). It has multi-player weapon enhanced racing around crazy floating roller coaster tracks (and at the top end of the game, it has future racer speeds).

But it also introduces whole new elements of in-air control, physics stunt skills and platform/puzzle driving that offers something truly different. It doesn’t set out to be the icon that Wipeout2097 was – but it does set out to offer something different in the fantasy-driving genre.

And as for the future of future racers …

– andysat

In response to “Video Vegas” from The Escapist Forum: As an ex-arcade guy who now works in the slot machine business, I would like to point out the statement that “Bally leads the market” is incorrect. They are sort of a middling player at this point.

As far as American marketshare for “class 3” (class 3 being games that you would find in Vegas) goes:

IGT is the market leader. They had what I would call a near-monopoly at one point during the 1990s. Probably close to 95% of all gaming (ahem) machines bore an IGT logo, mostly due to patents involving “virtual reels,” which have recently expired. However, their reluctance to embrace video slots caught up with them. They picked up the pieces eventually, but due to the fact that the five-reel video format has no patent protection (and conveniently gets around the pesky virtual reel patents), it enabled many other companies to get into the business. Still, it seems that IGT probably still holds anywhere between 50% – 70% of the casino floor positions.

Next up would be Aristocrat and Williams (now called WMS).

Aristocrat is an Australian-born company that is known as really bringing the 5 reel video format to the forefront. However, due to some issues with the core management at the time (early 90’s), they were never allowed licenses to operate and sell their games in the larger casino markets, such as Nevada. Which meant that they were only selling games into the Native American market. (They did fix their management issues, and as such, now have licenses to operate everywhere.)

Which brings us to WMS. Desperate to break into the market, but with licenses everywhere, they copied the Aristocrat format and were able to sell it into Nevada and Atlantic City. So, they wound up being the company that “mainstreamed” the format (while most of the other players in the industry dismissed the video slot craze as a fad). They were pretty much poised to take over the casino, except for a bunch of software bugs that slowed them down A LOT. This allowed everyone else to play catch up.

Bally sort of fits between the top three and the group of “second tier” players, which at this point, would include Atronic, Konami, and Progressive. AC Coin probably goes in this group, too, but they are a rather unusual outfit, as they are more of a retro-fit type company (they develop top box bonus games on top of pre-existing games), as opposed to a pure developer.

Multimedia is a huge player in “Class 2” (Bingo-based Indian Reservation Gaming and networked lottery systems), I’m glad to see them getting some amount of mention. Usually, you only read interviews from the “Vegas guys.”

– meeplecheese

In response to “Next-Generation Storytelling” from The Escapist Forum: To do justice to the game medium, what we’re really talking about is reinterpreting what we mean by the word “story”. Many times, when I hear about people talking about storytelling through games, I get the image of them trying to ape the accomplishments of books andmovies. I don’t think that’s the best use of the game medium because, at least in theory, games are capable of so much more through the player’s freewill.

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Freewill can ruin a good story. How many of us, through the freewill that we express in our lives, end up with a good story? The good stories come afterwards through a retelling that edits out the drudgery and, perhaps, adds sparkle with a few judicious lies. (How many good story tellers are not liars?) The footage on the cutting room floor far outweighs the final edit. Games don’t have the luxury of that much editing. That’s why I think that it’s important not to get too caught up in the storytelling paradigm. It’s too easy to reduce games down to movies or books. It can be done, but I don’t think that it’s the best use of the game medium.

As much as I like what Warren has to say, I don’t think that the word “story” is the best word to capture the creative vision needed to surpass the limits of books and movies. I prefer to think in terms of alternate world modeling, but maybe that’s a byproduct of the type of playing and exploration I like to do.

– Nordstrom

In response to Playground Piracy from The Escapist Forum: I have to admit, this article brought up some nice memories; writing this from Croatia, where (sixteen years ago) you couldn’t buy an original copy of a game even if you had the money. Back then I thought Razor 1911 was a game developer!

And, yeah, I owe my good (in Croatian terms) knowledge of the English language to computer games, especially Lucas Arts and their fabulous adventures. But originals were nowhere to find, and to my surprise – it was the publishers who refused to go to our market. They feared piracy.

– bazooka_joe

In response to Playground Piracy from The Escapist Forum: In the Netherlands there’s an organization called BIG (Ban Illegal Games & software) that aired a commercial with a high tech FBI-like team that searched out illegal gamers! With sirens and in black suits with black sunglasses and high tech red lasers (why?) they would find all illegal gamers.

They resorted to scare tactics, spewing various lies (they don’t search out illegal gamers, they just try to prevent it with… well there’s no better word for it than propaganda). It is very much aimed at this ‘playground piracy’, as can be seen from their various posters in schools.

And as helpless as developers are as each of their copy protection mechanisms get swatted away like flies, I can understand the desperation of their side. I can understand the reaction to resort to fear tactics, but I don’t think it’s an effective solution.

As Kieron Gillen said, essentially playground piracy is an act of love, while lying to get people to pay for games is an act of fear (which is an interesting duality as the one is a crime, while the second is born of a sense of justice).

The solution for developers, is to accept reality as it is and either produce games for free with a Paypal link or bank account to allow contributions or go the other way and make sure your game can’t be played without being connected to your server (with unique key of course).

– Capo Taco

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