This Week in Games: March 10, 2012

Phil Fish insults Japanese games, Peter Molyneux quits, the Assassin's Creed guy calls AAA games a "cancerous growth," and Jonathan Blow says you're doing it wrong. Plus Mass Effect 3, and a new iPad.

by

It was the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week. Everyone who's anyone in the field of game creation was in town to talk about the future of development, to look back at great moments from the past, and to celebrate the greatest achievements of the last year. You can watch our exclusive video of the Game Developers Choice Awards right here in the embedded video (it's an hour and 18 minutes long, just so you know). If you want to skip to the end…Spoiler Alert! The big winners were Skyrim (in the Game Developers Choice Awards) and Fez (in the Independent Games Festival).

The latter capped off an eventful few days for outspoken Fez creator Phil Fish, who made news when he said he thought modern Japanese games "just suck." Later that same night on Twitter, he clarified his position, saying "I'm sorry Japanese guy! I was a bit rough, but your country's games are f*** terrible nowadays."

"I'm sorry Japanese guy! I was a bit rough, but your country's games are f*** terrible nowadays." - Phil Fish

As you can tell, GDC is always great for some choice quotes and interesting news, and this year was no exception. Of note was something from Assassin's Creed 3 creative director Alex Hutchinson during his session "Designing Games to Sell," which came hot on the heels of his game's first trailer earlier this week. Hutchinson said he envisions two "dystopian" futures for the game industry. One, he said, is where the only games that sell are focused on analytics and are obsessed with making money. The other is what he described as a "massive arms race," where studios are "pushing for graphical fidelity and working on the sheer scale of games."

"We think about [this push] as kind of cancerous growth," he said, coining one of the most quotable comments of the event. "I think that will leave the AAA blockbusters as nothing more than the last of the dinosaurs." In other news, Hutchinson's employer confirmed that his upcoming AAA blockbuster Assassin's Creed 3 will ship for the Wii U this fall.

Speaking of Dinosaurs

During an unusual and suspiciously vague media event during GDC this week, EA announced the next installment of the venerable SimCity franchise, dubbed…wait for it…SimCity. Lucy Bradshaw, SVP at EA Maxis, commented, "It's been about ten years since we shipped the last true Maxis SimCity." There have been numerous reboots, rethinks, and throwbacks (like the awful version on iOS) since, but this is the real deal, it seems. After saying very little about the new game other than the fact that it would be released in 2013, EA then trotted out a series of "Game Changers" interviews featuring the likes of Davis Guggenheim, the director of the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter. Ironically, the prevailing sentiment on Twitter during the event was "WTF?"

If you're a fan of classic games, there were some awe-inspiring sessions during GDC that you can bask in the magnificence of if you have the time this weekend to watch our videos. First, Timothy Cain, the creator of the original Fallout, dicussed how his classic game was conceived and described it as "the game that almost never was." It was very nearly called Vault 13 rather than Fallout, and the Interplay marketing guys back in 1997 wanted to call it by the thoroughly unimaginative name Post Nuclear Adventure. Check out the full session here.

It was very nearly called Vault 13 rather than Fallout, and the Interplay marketing guys back in 1997 wanted to call it by the thoroughly unimaginative name Post Nuclear Adventure.

Gauntlet creator Ed Logg hosted a similar session in which he revealed that Gauntlet was inspired by both Dungeons & Dragons (like you couldn't guess) and the Atari 800 game Dandy, and that the whole thing was designed as a four-player game so that each individual cabinet could generate much more revenue than a typical arcade machine. His full session is right here.

If you love survival horror games, you should check out the GDC talk from Alone in the Dark creator Frederick Raynal, the man widely recognized as creating the genre many years before Resident Evil or Silent Hill. It is now 20 years since the first Alone in the Dark wowed PC gamers, but the conventions it established are still relevant today. You can check out the session here. Because of the live nature of the original content, you need to skip forward a little in this archive to get to the session. Raynal's talk begins at around the 13-minute mark.

Molyneux Quits, Inafune Teases, Cage Denies, Blow Says You're Doing It Wrong

Though not a GDC "event" of any kind, the week kicked off with the surprising news that Lionhead founder Peter Molyneux had left his job as creative director at Microsoft Game Studios' European division to work with a new, independent outfit. In a tweet, Molyneux stated, "I have left the lovely amazing Microsoft and Lionhead. Now for something really amazing, scary and brave a new company called 22 Cans."

Kara is not our next game. It's not the character, it's not the world, it's not the story. … We do things in a very strange way here, things that have nothing to do with the games we make.

Molyneux, creator of Dungeon Keeper and Populous, as well as the Xbox-exclusive role-playing game franchise Fable, co-founded Lionhead in 1997. He set up the studio after leaving Bullfrog, which he had founded 10 years earlier and sold to Electronic Arts in 1995. Lionhead produced the god game Black & White under his direction, as well as the first Fable game, before being acquired by Microsoft in 2006.

Elsewhere in the land of big names: Influential Mega Man designer Keiji Inafune said he is working on a new PlayStation Vita game. Well, he implied it. Speaking during a session titled "The Future of Japanese Games," Inafune said that new hardware pushes developers creatively, and he noted that he has been working on the PS Vita before stopping to note he wasn't supposed to talk about that. So. There you go.

Heavy Rain fans were thrilled by a new PlayStation 3 tech demo shown by Quantic Dream boss David Cage midweek. Much like the "casting" video that was released ahead of the studio's ambitious adventure last year, many assumed that the futuristic riff on character creation was a preamble for a sci-fi title in a similar mold to Heavy Rain. Not so!. "Kara is not our next game," Cage later stated. "It's not the character, it's not the world, it's not the story. … We do things in a very strange way here, things that have nothing to do with the games we make. But I think that's a part of the DNA of the studio, and hopefully something that people like about us--they never know what they're going to get!"

If, like us, you enjoy hearing Jonathan Blow talk about the trials and tribulations of game design, you'll love this interview in which he explains how mainstream game developers are getting it wrong, talks about whether games should actually be fun, and (in response to those comments from Phil Fish earlier) ponders the state of the Japanese games industry. Here's the full thing.

Weekly Next-Gen Wrap-Up

As promised last week, here's a quick wrap-up of the week's next-gen console news:

Remember all the fuss about the possibility of an Android-like (or 3DO-like) Steam box being revealed during GDC? Yeah, well that didn't happen. However, the company admitted it was building "boxes," but their immediate purpose was for testing the company's Steam Big Picture user interface mode. This new mode will let users play Steam games on a PC connected to a television. "We're always putting boxes together," Valve's Doug Lombardi said. "Going all the way back to the Half-Life 1 days, we built special boxes to test our software render…it's just part of development." Color us disappointed. Unhindered by this revelation, Valve also made news this past week for being worth a lot of money. Over $3 billion if Forbes is to be believed. To unearth Valve's worth, the magazine spoke with unnamed "industry insiders," equity analysts, investment bankers, and technology analysts. This makes Valve co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell one of the richest individuals on earth. Newell owns more than 50 percent of Valve, indicating a personal net worth of at least $1.5 billion.

"The beginning of the end for conventional consoles." - Neil Young, ngmoco

Following on from last week's news that Microsoft was showing the next Xbox to a handful of select developers, this week we learned that (contrary to previous reports) the new box will ditch optical media in favor of some sort of interchangeable solid-state card storage. It's not clear whether or not it will be proprietary or a common format like SD, but our bet is on the former.

In case you missed it, Apple released the new iPad this week, packing a more powerful processor, 4G connectivity, and a stunning 2048x1536 display for the same price as the iPad 2. Many of the developers in attendance at GDC were excited at the prospect of a new device that now packs power comparable to that of the Xbox 360. Ngmoco CEO Neil Young told us that it could signify "the beginning of the end for conventional consoles," noting that a new iPad streaming to a TV through Airplay offers a kind of experience that is perfectly adequate for the masses and that it would no doubt inform whatever the next generation of devices would strive for. Perhaps there's further credence to that Xbox tablet idea from a while ago?

Mass Effect 3 Was Released

For many of us the biggest deal of this past week was the release of Mass Effect 3. EA revealed that it shipped 3.5 million copies of the game this past week, and it was met with considerable critical acclaim. The title is currently enjoying a Metacritic score of 94, despite concerns from many gamers about its weak ending, and day-one DLC. There have also been some altercations around the game's homosexual content. For a deeper exploration of this, check out Kevin VanOrd's editorial on the subject.

Discussion

77 comments
Mark07041971
Mark07041971

I know I come across as a HUGE FFXIII hater, and I'll accept that. I've been waiting for a good FF game since VII, and I know I'm not the only one. I'm just tired of repeatedly getting my hopes up only to realize 20 minutes in that I've wasted ANOTHER $60. It's not like I haven't tried. Hell, I bought into the hype of FFXIII so hard that I bought the FFXIII-edition XBox 360--and it now serves as a reminder to me of how irretrievably far the once-mighty have fallen, and of how maddeningly careful I have to be when spending my money on games.

Mark07041971
Mark07041971

@ Apathetic_Prick (love the handle, btw...): Just goes to show you can't have an arguement without agreeing on the definitions of terms, and it looks like we disagree on the definition of "RPG." To me, "Role-Playing" means that, almost like an actor, I am playing a role. Personally, the success of an RPG hinges entirely upon the game's ability to get me to connect with and care about the character--and that is ENTIRELY a function of story. Great story makes crap gameplay bearable because a great story motivates me to get to its conclusion; conversely, a crap story KILLS a game for me, regardless of how good the gameplay is. Take Red Dead Redemption and FFXIII. RDR's gameplay, for the most part, was terrible (press Y, steer horse through barren wasteland for 20-30 minutes, press Y, walk around town, occasionally interact with an NPC, press Y, steer horse through barren wasteland for 20-30 minutes, repeat), but the story was PHENOMENAL--and that kept me fully engaged with the game when the gameplay failed to do so. FFXIII, on the other hand, had really good combat, with a definite (but not overbearingly steep) learning curve that rewarded me for my efforts--but I couldn't drink enough Maker's Mark to replicate either FFXIII's fractured, nonsensical story or the ponderous, stilted gibberish that passed for dialogue, and I ended up giving the game away after about 10 hours because I just DID NOT CARE.

Mark07041971
Mark07041971

@swyg: you wrote: "It's hilarious that you compared Mass Effail 2 to FFXIII story-wise and then try to pass off dialogue and narrative as the whole story of a game. Hey you know what? I'll take XIII's corny dialogue and moments over Mass Effect 2 any day. Because the actual story of FFXIII is more compelling given how it presents it's atmosphere, the progression of the game, and the boss fights as the story moves along; corny dialogue and all." Hmm. Interesting. According to Webster's Dictionary, "narrative" means, "the representation in art of an event or story." You might want to learn your own language a little better. Might keep the taste of shoe-leather out of your mouth.

Apathetic_Prick
Apathetic_Prick

@mitchymoo91: I suppose I did put things out of context, but it was referential to the topic, not people. People are people, but the gaming industry in Japan is extremely exclusive, which was the whole point of the post. period. As to the Japanese being the first to help: That's empathy. I hope :P

mitchymoo91
mitchymoo91

@Apathetic_Prick Thankyou for elaborating, you've backed up your statement with fact, which is more than most on this site can say. My problem with what you said, however is that your using businesses as a representative of an entire culture. To say Japanese are xenophobic is a vast generalisation. I come from New Zealand, and last year we had a major earthquake in one of our largest cities, hundreds of people died, and billions of dollars of damage was done. The Japanese were the first of anyone to send aid, they pulled OUR children out of the rubble for no other reason than they felt it was the right thing to do. I put it to you, is that xenophobia?

ZwaanME
ZwaanME

"a dystopian future where the only games that sell are focused on analytics and are obsessed with making money." As far as I'm concerned we're already there. A lot of games nowadays are just that, based on analytics and created to fork in the dough. That's why we've had nothing but sequels, prequels and reboots for the past few years.

Shawshoe
Shawshoe

@MichaellG88 Bethada gud butt mee lyke older scrawls butter dan fullshout.

Shawshoe
Shawshoe

Those sandal-wearing goldfish tenders?

rbenns2
rbenns2

Economics should take care of most of their concerns. When they keep pumping out yearly sequels, eventually people will get tired of it and the franchise dies. Remember the Tony Hawk and Rock Band franchises? They were the Call of Duty of their day, now they're dead or dormant.

MichaelG88
MichaelG88

Bethada is did good work, but Fallout is better than Elder scroll. Great work other teams as well!

MichaelG88
MichaelG88

Words heavy, Game is become Button smash + Movie scenes..., Game should feels like Darksouls, every player can play in difference ways and share with other gamers. Older Scroll is missing something, it doesn't draw player back from other games. when I got BF3, Older Scrolls and Dark Souls, I was played Dark Souls a long time..other 2 game not even been opened.

JinKisaragi
JinKisaragi

I don't understand how Jonathan Blow can make such a statement about Japanese games when many western games have been doing the exact same thing.

Lokero8
Lokero8

LOL, Fez is soooo japanese xD but opinions are like a**holes. everybody's got one and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks''

flesh19no
flesh19no

@glack123 If you see the entire video, you will find out he says "not all japanese games are like that" ;) But mostly they are like that

glack123
glack123

I don't agree with Jonathan Blow at all about Japanese games. There are many different types of games for many different people. You can have a profound experience with games that are not exceedingly difficult. Zelda isn't a particularly difficult series but each game is beautiful and brings a new perspective to the series. That being said, I am glad he said what he said. He is challenging the mainstream and that is how new ideas are made. Hopefully this should represent the rise of new ideas in gaming.

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

Anyone else get the feeling Molyneux is punking us and not really leaving?

unbentonslaught
unbentonslaught

I'm pretty sure that Japanese games have been better lately than most western games. Don't believe me? Try Dark Souls.

Apathetic_Prick
Apathetic_Prick

@mitchymoo91: Regarding racism and Japan: I never said anyone enjoys being racist. I did say that they enjoy the games that they enjoy, and that my implication is that they lock out what they don't want entering their market - or make it almost unsalable if they can't get away with that - which is actually true. Call it what you like: xenophobia, nationalism, it still boils down to racism. You need to do some reading and look at their business practices before you type. That said, I don't agree with Japanese games being inferior, nor do I agree with some dumbf**k indie developer (let's be honest here: an awesome indie game is a lot harder to find than an awesome Japanese one, and the former is more common than the latter) shooting his mouth off about the one past time that the Japanese managed to IMPROVE for the whole friggin' world. While it doesn't make them impervious to criticism, it should not be disrespectful.

Heidi_Kabel
Heidi_Kabel

Man, I read the headline and thought "WHOAAAH, Molyneux quits making video games?? That's amaaaaaaazing!!.. Oh wait, he quits doing one thing to do another which is supposed to outshine everything he's ever done.." So nothing's changed :(

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

Loved that Jonathan Blow interview. Agree with him 100%

top8cat
top8cat

Should change the title to "This week in pricks"

SnoopyvsRyu
SnoopyvsRyu

Video games produced in Japan have the same feeling as those produced everywhere so what sucks is Phil's comment not the Games of the orient. Some games are awesome some are bad and same in Europe and America but you can't deny examples like Konami (silent hill, metal gear, etc) and Capcom (street fighter, Megaman, Resident Evil, etc) they are from Japan and they rock, oh and Nintendo's franchises like mario, zelda, metroid, smash brothers, etc

JabbaRancor
JabbaRancor

EA does make me sad face, though. And yet, I buy FIFA every fudgin year.

mitchymoo91
mitchymoo91

@Apathetic_Prick So all Japanese people are racist, and they enjoy being racist? I wonder if you know what hypocrisy is..

JabbaRancor
JabbaRancor

The future of games is bleak to say the least... I can see the money based future where games are just clones of each other. I guess this is growing up?

hardeddie
hardeddie

Phil is just a small Fish, trying to fight with the big whale. Good luck Sardine

CarlaBeat11
CarlaBeat11

How adorable, Phil Fish thinks he's someone important and can make comments like that :)

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

Let's see, insignificant indie devs make asses of themselves, Assassin's Creed creative director makes excuses for his own creative bankruptcy, and the Walking Lie leaves MS. Oh, and mobile phone shill claims consoles are dead. Really, the only person in the whole thing that didn't piss me off was Inafune.

moremoneythanu
moremoneythanu

assassins creed is so nerdy. if you play it your a nerd for life and should have ur game console smashed!

ahnzz
ahnzz

never heard of Phil Fish and the game Fez. wait i think i have heard somewhere..

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

There's no MOD and much Indies on Japan gaming culture, the only thing they knew is being console exclusive and handheld.. over, over and over again, Yes, Japan gaming is sh!t, they just running around in their "comfort" zone :roll:

Orbitz89
Orbitz89

Jonathan Blow made some very interesting and well made points about why he personally doesn't enjoy modern japanese games, and therefore, I respect his opinion, instead of someone who just comes out of nowhere and says something along the lines of "Japanese games suck yo! Oh you don't agree with me? well you must be stupid!" while it's true that the only Japanese games that i play are primarily ones made by Nintendo, i think there's still a lot of life and innovation left in the Japanese game industry.

noirtenshin
noirtenshin

imo jap games were superb, now they are not (as much), but are passable, west games from big mainstream studios are almost all alike (especially if there are few titles in a series, the difference is few features per tittle ), but they are passable the point is, if they continue to be just passable, the modern gamer (who remembers the feeling of some good old games) will stop buying new ones until he hears that something different is on the market. I understood Blow as an old school gamer who dislikes the new "retarded" practice (on SOME jap&west games, not all) and a man who would like to feel,play and think about the games, not just play as a script that somebody else wrote. I personally don't remember when i last time felt "excited" when playing a single player game. Plain and simple, games are being dumbdowned :/

Elann2008
Elann2008

Must suck to be named Jonathan Blow, but it must be great to be successful. :P

Jaga_Telesin
Jaga_Telesin

When you guys post a Metacritic score for a game, you MUST also post the community's score. Which in the case of Mass Effect on the PC, is an abysmal 3.5 (for a multitude of justified reasons).

alfredooo
alfredooo

Bayonetta, Dark Souls, The Last Story, Xenoblade, SMG 1&2 are all terrible? This is all news to me. Anyways, I don't think it's a very smart idea to make comments like this when you are an independent developer. People may very well associate you with your game (more so than when there is a big company behind it and there is a huge team of people working on it) so being an a**hole like this can never help get sales. I have already lost some interest in Fez after finding out one of the main guys behind it comes off as an immature a**hole.

TechnologoDoom
TechnologoDoom

I do love Phil Fish (incidentally met him at PAX East last year when he showed Fez) and frankly mostly agree with him - with the exception of whatever Atlus publishes and whatever Platinum games dreams up - just wish Suda 51 would get his act together

Apathetic_Prick
Apathetic_Prick

@Mark07041971: I saw some of your comments regarding RPGs and I just had to jump. RPG does not mean story, it means the characters fulfill a certain function and develop along that line. Plain and simple. There's no ambiguity. Story and everything else is merely an add-on that makes it more engaging, and I can assure you that great gameplay can keep it going. Skyrim is proof of this; let's be honest, the story is s**t; Morrowind was the last of the Elder Scrolls games with a good story. As far as Japanese games go, they're getting stale. It has little to do with story. Using Final Fantasy as an example is akin to using Call of Duty as a representative of Western gaming. Final Fantasy XIII is the result of developers having contempt for the fanbase, period. That's a symptom of a stagnating company, (very much like Activision). I mean, the Japanese hated FFXIII more than we did. However, it doesn't explain why Japanese games are not as enjoyable over here. Part of it is the cultural divide because we have our tastes and they have racism. I mean their tastes. The other part of it is that they don't get it and they don't care because there are more gamers on that side of the ocean than this one.

tom_cat_01
tom_cat_01

I hope the PS4 (or whatever it might be called) doesn't ditch its disc drive entirely. I use my playstations as my DVD player.

iloveyourface
iloveyourface

say whaa? xenoblade chronicles was awesome. and i'm playing through the last story and that's fun so far. japan still has plenty of innovation.

swyg
swyg

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

JimmyFrost
JimmyFrost

Touch screen gaming is the worst. No Neil Young, even handhelds struggle to stay a float, no one likes to game on their phones or tablets. We just do when we cant on our PC's or consoles. On the Indie note: I recently played Bastion and is far better than 90% of the AAA titles I have played in recent history.

Janpieterzun
Janpieterzun

I agree, Japanese games have been total crap. Japophile's don't see it though. The world isn't short on white people being awestruck by something they don't relate to or understand-culturally.

Ryu-zero
Ryu-zero

To each is own I guess, since most Japanese games were made for "Japanese" in mind in the first place. Some Westerners fail to understand that these games were based on the Japanese culture as well as their own common style of game-play so its only natural that they (westerners) sometimes compare it with their own and make hasty and biased general comments based on misunderstanding or... arrogance. I don't know if Phil Fish knows this but sometimes (maybe), the "really good" Japanese games rarely make it stateside and I am often disappointed about this since there are "a lot" of these games that I really want to play. If his comments are based on the current localized JAP games, then I think its down right stupid and unintelligent. C'mon Fish, remember the time in the late 90's to the early 2000's that we had nothing from U.S. publishers but crappy snowboarding-like games? Now that was lame.

solid_snake1461
solid_snake1461

Well, to Phil: you are a game developer, that's why you are in no position to judge other's work, that right belong to us, the consumers. And so just zip your mouth and make your game. Oh geez, I don't know whether this guy's stupidity is a naturally born trait or is it achieved through constant practice.

Skadoosh_69
Skadoosh_69

Japanese was and still is the best games ever.

artooniana
artooniana

MOTHER F**akashf ceos and *&(#@& now targeted the gaming which i thought were pure things and real arts these days, im seeing a dark future for gaming people

sozoshu
sozoshu

Oh, yeah, Phil, please play Xenoblade or Last Story or whatever other game that is not solely meant for 5-7 years old players and if you can still say that mentioned games are worse than Fez, well, it'll become even more clear who are we talking to.

sozoshu
sozoshu

Phil Fish appears to be smarter when his mouth is shut tight. Just how blind and ignorant is this to play a few titles for kids and generalize the whole industry of Japanese games. Generalizing is already a sign of ignorance, but as if it wasn't enough, he even want to state his personal opinion as a fact but not opinion, and insult countless people with different opinion.

Mark07041971
Mark07041971

@ soul_resonance: Hey, man, thanks for the well-thought reply. I wish more people would actually engage in polite conversation. I just think it's telling that you had to dig so far into the past to mention any Japanese games with decent story (I will definitely check out Sonic: The Dark Brotherhood, though, since both my youngest daughter and my neice are huge Sonic fans--thanks for the tip). What you said, though, kinda proves my point: Japanese games with quality (or at least non-gibberish) storylines have become the outliers, not the norm, whereas the opposite is now true for Western games (the vast majority of the FPS genre aside). It won't be that way forever, as the pendulum is sure to swing back the other way again at some point. The Japanese need a kick in the @$$ to get them competitive again, and maybe Fish's comment does that. I hope it does. Competition improves all sides, and we're the ones who win. Again, thanks for the reply. The beer I'm cracking open here's for you.