Longtime game designer Will Wright believes that video games are "falling way short" of living up to their potential.
Before its troubled launch, SimCity was among the most anticipated games of 2013. Some of the PC game's problems have been worked out in subsequent patches, but the weeks after release will probably be remembered as a disastrous example of always-online gameplay gone wrong. Will Wright, a legendary game designer and the creator of the SimCity series, is on the side of gamers when it comes to such restrictive online features. "I think there are some very valid concerns about it," Wright said of always-online requirements during a recent lecture at University of California Santa Cruz. While he felt bad for its developers and calls it a "good game," Wright added, "That was basically inexcusable, that you charge somebody $60 for a game and they can't play it."
Wright, who left Maxis in 2009 and wasn't involved in the development of the latest SimCity, thinks that the backlash surrounded the botched launch was predictable. "I can understand the outrage. If I was a consumer buying the game and that happened to me, I'd feel the same." Part of the problem, he says, is that it's an issue of perception; gamers expect that they can't play an MMO on a plane, but don't feel the same way about single-player games. "SimCity was in this very uncomfortable space... was it a single player game or was it a multiplayer game?"
In addition to addressing the SimCity launch, Wright also spoke about the "powerful" video game medium in general, stating that game developers have "only realized a small fraction of its potential." However, he acknowledged the "ten thousand Darwinian developers" making games outside of what was once considered the norm and moving away from the big-budget, AAA model. "Every week somebody tells me about some weird little app that came out. Not big budget, but they're interesting and fun out of the box. It's a much more level playing field, I think... It's not five big publishers controlling ten titles a year."
The SimCity creator is currently working on a new start-up stemming out of his last start-up, Stupid Fun Club. His new venture, Syntertainment, "lives at the intersection of entertainment and reality," though he wouldn't divulge any details about current projects. "The future is becoming less predictable" when it comes to the gaming industry, according to Wright. Gamers can only hope that things like the SimCity launch fiasco won't be commonplace as games continue to evolve.