The creator of World of Goo doesn't think we've seen a gaming masterpiece yet, but he has a plan so we can someday.
2D Boy co-founder Ron Carmel spoke at the Montreal International Games Summit this week where he formulated an idea for the videogame industry to create truly amazing titles. In his opinion, a gaming "masterpiece" hasn't yet been developed, but it's possible if the bigger fish in the industry set aside a percentage of their budgets for videogame "concept cars."
It's actually a very clever idea. Carmel proposes the creation of medium-sized studios whose funding is allocated partially for the purpose of "risk-taking." He believes that "creating this within a major developer doesn't present a problem," and could be made up of around 10 developers with a budget in the area of $2 million.
Carmel compared this kind of studio to the small groups within car manufacturers that create concept cars as "a marketing expense" that builds the company image. "There's no reason the larger game companies can't do that," he thinks. These groups would operate in a similar way to that of independent developers, which usually create a product going by vision rather than the desire for wads of cash to inflate their pockets. If a game in this situation didn't earn money, it wouldn't lead to the termination of creative people that did a good job regardless.
Carmel wants these gaming concept cars to be developed so that the industry can advance from its current position. The best big budget titles and smaller indie titles have been "great works" in Carmel's opinion, but he doesn't think we've "seen a masterpiece of video games" yet. Using television show The Wire as an example of what media can do at its best, Carmel compared it to videogames and said they've never been as "expressive as the great works of film, television, literature."
Though Sony studios like Team Ico have developed titles such as Shadow of the Colossus that come close to perfection, Carmel believes that funds set aside for experimentation without the focus on profitability would advance the integration of choice into the "emotional landscape" of media in a masterful way more quickly. Interestingly, Carmel actually splits the industry not between independent developers and larger publishers, but by "design" versus "commercial." When the practice of design can become the focus rather than the practice of earning profit, we may see games that genuinely wrench our hearts out of our chests or make us uncontrollably applaud at a television screen for no good reason. For a company like Activision Blizzard that brings in $745 million per year, why not set a little of that aside to see what can be done?