Chris Hecker, the former Maxis designer and engineer who famously described the Wii as “two GameCubes duct-taped together” and later became known as the man who ruined Spore, says he stands by his statement but wishes he’d phrased it a little more diplomatically.
In 2007, Hecker got on stage at the Game Developers Conference and said something that made instant headlines: The Wii, he told his audience, was “a piece of shit.” In case anyone missed the point, he further described it as “two GameCubes duct-taped together.” The fallout came fast and furious, and by the next day he issued an apology, saying, “I do not think the Wii is a piece of shit. Nintendo needs to be applauded for trying to interface on the controller front, the user.”
But now, three years later, Hecker told Eurogamer that he stands by his original point, if not his “inflammatory” wording. “Game design and gameplay is not separable from CPU power,” he said. “You can do more interesting games with a faster CPU. Nintendo made an underpowered platform, relative to what you could have made at the time.”
History has borne out the validity of his comments but Hecker said the situation caused him a considerable amount of grief that he really didn’t see coming. “I wasn’t thinking that because E3 closed down there would be a lot of people sniffing around for news stories in the mainstream press. It never used to be like that at GDC,” he said.
“That night was the Electronic Arts and Nintendo executive dinner. They were announcing a joint venture for the first time. It was disastrous. It was awful,” he continued. “The stars aligned in a completely negative, summon a demon kind of way. It was not good. I got a lot of hate mail. The Nintendo fanboys are pretty vehement. It’s a big fanboy community. My Wikipedia page got defaced endlessly.”
Hecker’s reputation took a further beating in October 2008 when the word was spread that he was responsible for turning Spore away from its roots in evolutionary science in order to make it friendlier for more casual gamers.
“Even though Will Wright, the creator of the game, took full responsibility for the game we shipped, and I wasn’t on the design team at all, to this day people talk about SpyParty in a forum and they’re like, isn’t that the guy who ruined Spore?” he said. “Someone will go, ‘Is that that game by that guy who ruined Spore?‘ Someone – hopefully – a couple of posts later, will say, ‘No, that was debunked. Here’s a link to the post.’ But sometimes that doesn’t happen. Then, what do you do you do? You feel like a dork going in and posting yourself, ‘No, I’m not that guy.’ It’s really hard to fight that kind of hearsay.”
SpyParty is Hecker’s current project, a self-funded indie espionage game “about subtle behavior, deception, performance and perception.” No release date has been set.