LGF 07: Will Wright speaks

The high-profile developer, currently working on Spore, tells the audience at BAFTA headquarters about his favourite platform, why games are shifting into multiple genres, and that encountering opposition with a new medium is to be expected.

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Games industry veteran Will Wright has been making games since the 1980s, when he started work on Raid on Bungeling Bay, a game which was to become SimCity, on the Commodore 64. A Sims theme ran through his next games, which included SimEarth, SimAnt, and of course, The Sims. Bravely breaking away from tradition, his latest title--Spore--does not have the word Sim in its title.

Speaking at the BAFTA headquarters in London's Piccadilly, Will Wright addressed an audience of other games professionals, media, BAFTA members, and students in a talk titled "Interactive Entertainment--the Oldest Art Form." After he finished, he answered GameSpot UK users' questions, as well as those from members of the audience.

Wright kicked off his lecture by explaining that new forms of entertainment always encounter opposition and that the games industry is no exception. He read out comments that had been made about novels when they were first released, "The free access which many young people have to novels and plays poison the mind and corrupt the morals of many a promising youth and prevented others from improving their minds with useful knowledge." Next he read out similar comments made shortly after the introduction of the Waltz dance, movies, and rock and roll.

He added, "For most people, this is their preconception of what games are, and they don't see a lot of social relevance or value. If you look at other forms of media, we have trashy novels. We have action movies. And, of course, television is known for the amount of violence that's on it. But yet--and I have to admit at some point--games do have this kind of over-the-top thing. Like some movies, there are some very violent movies out there, but games seem determined to now kind of outdo them. This is unfortunate that games have this image to people, when in fact there are so many beneficial, interesting, socially relevant games out there, and we're starting to see more and more of those over time...but it kind of makes me ashamed that we aren't making more use of the medium."

In the future, Wright believes that games will diversify much more, away from the current genres he thinks dominate the marketplace: "Dungeons and Dragons, sports, and military history," and that eventually we will see as many genres as are available in a library, for instance.

He also revealed that his favourite platform, which will likely come as no surprise, is the PC. He explains, "I love the mouse. The mouse still is one of the most elegant input devices I've ever seen. Oh, and I do spend a lot of time with my DS. That's my favourite mobile platform by far."

Wright mulled over the fact that games are increasingly becoming multigenre, and that some genres have already started to die off, including flight simulators and graphic adventures. He thinks this is because of cost, "Nowadays with graphics and stuff and sound and whatever character action, when we're playing games, these things would be exorbitantly expensive. And there were very few people that really know how to do it. So even the people that did it well, like Tim Schafer, are moving into hybrid genres where Tim's taking what he learned in graphic adventures and like. Psychonauts is kind of a weird one between a graphic adventure and a platform because that was more economical for him to build. He couldn't really afford to build games like he used to at Lucas. So some of these things are falling by the wayside because the customer base is being dwarfed by all the millions of people playing Wii Sports."

Talking about games versus movies, Wright offered, "Games are still trying to be movies, whereas movies are innovating and trying to be games more successfully than games are being movies."

Wright also wanted to do some myth busting at the event, telling everyone the truth about two urban legends about him. The first is that Electronic Arts tried again and again to cancel The Sims. He said, "First of all, it's not true, and I try to correct this myth over and over. Maxis tried to cancel The Sims several times in development. I was fighting the board of directors and everybody saying, 'You want to make a game about cleaning toilets?' And so eventually, we had this little tools group that nobody was using the tools anyway, and so I said, 'OK, just give me these four guys and I'm going to take it off as my black project.' And they said, 'Fine. Leave us alone.'

"Later when EA bought us and all of a sudden they just started giving me resources and said, 'What do you need? What do you need?' And so in fact it was almost the opposite. EA kind of saved it from Maxis ironically. So that's the correct version of the story."

Wright was also asked how his tuba playing was going, as his Wikipedia entry proclaims that he is an avid tuba player. He looked bemused before saying, "I've never touched a tuba in my life."

When asked when Spore would be released, Wright laughed, "I don't think it's been released yet."

Discussion

71 comments
Roken1
Roken1

Yeah some more screenshots and video clips would help, although I highly doubt it'd look very different from the ones we already seen. It's the game mechanics that they're probably stalling on.

matok30
matok30

We havn't heard from Spore for almost three months - is everything going alright? We need some more follow up!

Roken1
Roken1

@HadrianII: I think one of the biggest reasons why SPORE is constantly delayed is because Will Wright wants to make sure that the Civ and Space modes of SPORE works perfectly and not bugged out or boring. Frankly I think the dev team of SPORE is actually making 3 games. SPORE, SPORE Civilizations, and SPORE Galactic Civilizations (note the references to two great Turn base strategy games). So I won't be surprised that Spore will be delayed again into Q3 of 2008, and I actually hope they would cuz I want them to make this game come out right the first time!

HadrianII
HadrianII

Damn this game looks really cool but there is two questions bugging the hell out of me: 1.In civ phase, will warfare be limited to vehicles or will there also infantry caring assault rifles and wearing uniforms or possibly some sort of futureistic armor 2.In space phase, willyou be able to build vast fleets of ufos and carry huge invasion forces to take over other races, better yet , will you even be able to carry military units aboard your spacecraft The game will be great with out these features, but still, from the perspective of an rts gamer, it would make the game better

AYBABTme
AYBABTme

Good point, ToastMaster_M. We can only pray there will be censors before the creatures/buildings/vehicles/etc is uploaded. :(

ToastMaster_M
ToastMaster_M

What worries me is that there's going to be people out there who will upload a species shaped like genitals in some form or another.

BenitoRedEye
BenitoRedEye

radioactive1wiz . Man oh man Do I agree. + WTF? My birthday is in May and I'm hoping to get it then. Whoa....

radioactive1wiz
radioactive1wiz

I hate ea cause every game they have been given control over that is a series they have duffed with a million expansions and crappy multiplayer servers :( Still spore i am hoping will be a great game and out for my birthday in may :D

GamerErman2001
GamerErman2001

This game looks awesome! I can't wait for it! I loved The Sims and Sim City, and this game looks even better! YAY!

greater_bird
greater_bird

The Sims seems to be to PC gamers what Pokemon is to handheld gamers. It's so overwhelmingly popular that everyone has to prove how cool they are by dissing it. Can'y you all move on to bashing the Wii (also a good target because it's fantastically popular and too 'casual' to be kewl) and stop flogging the dead horse... The criticism got boring about 5 years ago, and your constant digs aren't slowing The Sims down one bit.

AceRampage
AceRampage

wow... so we should thank EA for the sims... If not for them, we wouldn't have sims 2 either... haha...

simtim
simtim

Very interesting interview... Tuba player... :)

gammelgroof89
gammelgroof89

think this game will be great, no matter what others say.

stevo-millz
stevo-millz

this game looks like its gunna be a gud n' fingers crossed.

JackKnife35
JackKnife35

Hmm... there could always be something like Spore: Avian Species or Spore: Adopt an alien puppy, hmm... Spore: Crime Lords of the Galaxy or anything along those lines. :-) ooooooooooo Something I'd actually like is.... Spore: Planet Builder, create your own planet, control what life lives there from the get-go ^.^

tlow0678
tlow0678

Hopefully this game won't become retardedly overdone like the sims. How many expansions are there? like 89734589732? If spore turns out like that, welll...what expansions can it have? Spore House Party?

OremLK
OremLK

Will Wright seems like a pretty smart guy, but I agree with everyone saying he's overrated. As far as I'm concerned, Sim City will always be his legacy and his biggest impact upon the gaming industry. And while there's no denying that it was a classic, I can't say I find anything else he's done particularly impressive. Especially The Sims. We'll see about Spore.

lsny
lsny

Will Wright is perhaps the most overrated developer there is.

osleyee
osleyee

Wright offered, "Games are still trying to be movies, whereas movies are innovating and trying to be games more successfully than games are being movies. i think that will wright is saying is that movies and games want to share each other elements to make a better product know that i think its and read some people comment movies do not have interactive enteirment qualities as video games.

_Cab0ose87_
_Cab0ose87_

By the way, I am probably misinformed but i don't exactly keep track of what certain games companies do.. I just play their games.

_Cab0ose87_
_Cab0ose87_

I could never understand what people had against EA... They seemed to make mostly good games to me, And according to Mr. Wright, they even saved his project. I don't know.. i guess its just "cool" to hate on EA. Not that there's anything cool about getting emotional about what one company does behind closed doors... If anything that ANY other company of that size wouldn't do.

Hawk456
Hawk456

The "real money" is in volume... he who sells the most games wins. Hardcore is not always the desired target market, look at RadioShack in the 80's - they catered to hardcore electronics people. Best Buy focused on the everyday retail electronics consumer.

teirdome
teirdome

"So some of these things are falling by the wayside because the customer base is being dwarfed by all the millions of people playing Wii Sports." Wow. Couldn't agree more. We are starting to enter a time when the casual gamer playing his/her Wii is getting more attention than the hardcore gamer. And though we do have this amazing fall/winter lineup consisting of everything from Crysis to Halo 3 to World in Conflict, companies are definitely shifting resources away from the hardcore and into the casual. Hopefully however, just like the MMO fad we're in, companies will realize that the real money is in the people who actually like games and will give money back to the hardcore studios.

venus577
venus577

Wright was also asked how his tuba playing was going, as his Wikipedia entry proclaims that he is an avid tuba player. He looked bemused before saying, "I've never touched a tuba in my life." LOL at the reliability of Wikipedia....

Flamingtear
Flamingtear

Wright offered, "Games are still trying to be movies, whereas movies are innovating and trying to be games more successfully than games are being movies." I think he meant this pretty much as he said it, though I understand where you are coming from ax23000. But to say that movies are innovating and games arn't is incredibly naive on his (Mr. Wright's) behalf. I dont think games are trying to be movies, but more so that games are trying to deliver the cinematic experience we get today, which just so happen to be found in film. Games such as Mass Effect & Farenheit have replicated these cinematic & movie experiences (notably the innovation of dialogue) in better ways than any film has ever done with video game elements. I dont think games need to stop trying to be a different media - those who create video games understand the need to breech other medias to deliver the best experience possible, which is why we have cinematic cutscenes, musical scores composed by celebrated professionals & stories written by new york times best sellers.

latchol1Sim
latchol1Sim

SpazH3D: Yeah, everyone has lots of ideas, but his are GOOD ideas, and he is determined enough to put his good ideas INTO PRACTICE. That, and his good ideas tend to at least try to break the mould, which is more than you can say for many people. At least he doesn't sound self-absorbed or anything when he's speaking, like certain famous people do.

SpazH3d
SpazH3d

That guy is so overrated. Sure he has a lot of ideas, but we all do.

Azhar85
Azhar85

'You want to make a game about cleaning toilets?' hahaha...i'll agree with that....

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

If there's anyone who deserves to be called a genius of the gaming industry, it's definitely Will Wright. Nobody but him could make peeing, cleaning the toilet, and performing menial labor as fun and entertaining as he does.

Rob_101
Rob_101

When asked when Spore would be released, Wright laughed, "I don't think it's been released yet." What?????

munsoned
munsoned

nice pic of will wright thanks gamespot, we all now know what harry potter will look like when he grows up

pencilpusher69
pencilpusher69

Montyburns "If I understood this correctly, movies are doing a better job at trying to be video games than vice versa. I'm not sure what the hell he's talking about, considering movies have no interactive qualities. " What he's talking about is how movies are being directed these days. The focus in hollywood has gone from directors trying to create compelling, well thought out storytelling, and shifted to quick cuts, rotoscoped shots, slow-mo to sped up film effects, all in an effort to make action feel like a videogame, rather than a film. Guys like David S. Goyer, Uwe Boll, and many, many other hack directors watch videogames, and try to emulate them with their visual direction.

pencilpusher69
pencilpusher69

"For most people, this is their preconception of what games are, and they don't see a lot of social relevance or value. If you look at other forms of media, we have trashy novels. We have action movies. And, of course, television is known for the amount of violence that's on it. But yet--and I have to admit at some point--games do have this kind of over-the-top thing. Like some movies, there are some very violent movies out there, but games seem determined to now kind of outdo them. This is unfortunate that games have this image to people, when in fact there are so many beneficial, interesting, socially relevant games out there, and we're starting to see more and more of those over time...but it kind of makes me ashamed that we aren't making more use of the medium." Sadly, those with no appreciation of film would rather watch Saw 4 rather than a brilliant film like 2001: A Space Odyssey. The lowest common denominator always wins in the market place. Sadly, I'm not sure if I see gaming going in a more positive direction overall. Especially with game publishers now beginning to cow tow advertisers to fund games. It seems to me that in a world where Pepsi is paying to create a game, Pepsi is going to dictate what content they are willing to endorse, or not endorse, and if they feel a specific game or genre won't bring in enough users to view their Pepsi logos, then that game won't ever be made. Can you imagine if a corporation's ad money were forced to choose between funding Okami or Grand Theft Auto?

ax23000
ax23000

MontyBurns I think you miss the point he's trying to make, which is that games should stop trying to be a different media. In other words games aren't movies. They will never be movies. And yet for some reason the prevailing wisdom of the day is that games need to be more like movies. This is kind of like saying that music needs to be more like books, or even books need to be more like movies. Different mediums have different strengths and weaknesses. This can be clearly seen in examples where books have been turned into movies or vice versa. At worst you have adaptations that blindly try to follow the source and in doing so don't work. At best you have movies (like LoTR) where the director/writer/whatever realizes that the mediums are different and adapts accordingly. You spend so much time taking issue with what I believe was meant to be partially a joke, that you ignore the key point.

MontyBurns
MontyBurns

again.. have to play devil's advocate. Will may have developed some great games, but I think he needs to check his prescription, because his "vision" is quite myopic. "Games are still trying to be movies, whereas movies are innovating and trying to be games more successfully than games are being movies." If I understood this correctly, movies are doing a better job at trying to be video games than vice versa. I'm not sure what the hell he's talking about, considering movies have no interactive qualities. None. You sit and watch. Commentary is the only interaction, and is usually limited to those watching with out. There is no interaction with the media itself. Movies as innovative ?? Innovation in a 19th century invention?? Wake up Rip van Will. The 80's are gone.

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

The original Sims was good as was the first couple Sims games for Consoles ( including Smis: Bustin Out, which I have and like quite a lot), but they've just kept going on and on with SO MANY expansions....Regardless, it's still a good game...the original game anyway. :D I actually made my dad's old house , my grandparent's house (both on the PC version of The Sims) and my friend's apartment (on Bustin Out). Cool stuff, and I'm excited for Spore on the Wii. :)

stefan90
stefan90

When asked when Spore would be released, Wright laughed, "I don't think it's been released yet."--------- WHAT THAT MEEN'S???? . . . .ing FREAK!!!

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

i love the Sims but I just don't have the time, I hope he keeps making gems. Spore looks quite interesting though.

mrbass208
mrbass208

Will Wright and Sid Meier...the two most brilliant minds in gaming today. Here's hoping they do another collaborative project and soon.

mattrix33
mattrix33

im no fan of the sims,but wil wright talks some sense. www.thegamingrevolution.com

1357900
1357900

Multiplayer gaming is getting filled w/ lots of: 1.half-baked empty-shell, filler type gmes{a con}, but also 2.diversity for gamers' tastes{ a pro} Will Wright is among the greatest people in gaming. i still am not one of EA's more-biggest fans. Anyway, aren't they the owners of Maxis, or am I mis-informed? In any event, it's always interesting, & intriging to here what Wright generally has to say.

ninja-legend
ninja-legend

"Like some movies, there are some very violent movies out there, but games seem determined to now kind of outdo them. This is unfortunate that games have this image to people, when in fact there are so many beneficial, interesting, socially relevant games out there, and we're starting to see more and more of those over time...but it kind of makes me ashamed that we aren't making more use of the medium." What! Have you heard the reports of socially inept people playing the sims for many hours a day, as a place holder for their pathetic lives?Of course thats mostly BS. I tell you what, just because I like a little blood bath in my fantasy, doesn't make it any less relevant than yours. Violent games are a good release for anger and frustration. Also violent tendencies that build up in male humans as a result of over production of testosterone do to the fact of "the human animal". But mr. Will would know nothing of that.

starbead
starbead

I don't think EA should matter here. Will Wright is one of a handful of people whom EA won't push around and will give creative freedom to. EA bought Maxis for Will Wright, not the Maxis board of directors, who ironically were trying to "EA" Will Wright. And Spore doesn't seem to be the type of game that they can cram ads into, so they can't Hellgate: Adware it. The cool thing about Will Wirght is that his games are so out there, so different that you either give him what he wants or let him go. When you look at a game like The Sims or Spore, you either have to trust his vision or say you won't publish it from the start. Where would an corporate hack even begin to tinker with those games? If they agree to put up the money at the start, they pretty much have to wait it out because it is so conceptually different from other games that trying to interfere could only make it worse. In short, EA bought Maxis because they trusted Will Wright. His games should continue to his games under them. On the other hand, BioWare will be crushed once they give EA a couple of cash cow franchises. Or EA will buy the exclusive rights to science fiction and fantasy settings and finish killing the game industry.

MasterChief725
MasterChief725

Dang! I want the release date! For PC and Wii!...I also wish EA wasnt publishing this game