A couple of weeks ago GameSpot UK asked forum users if they had any questions for Will Wright, who was in London to receive his BAFTA fellowship award--the highest accolade the organisation can bestow upon an individual, given previously to prestigious names such as Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stanley Kubrick.
Thanks to everyone who sent a question or questions in, and read on to see which ones were selected by BAFTA, along with candid answers from the man himself.
PAJ89: Where will the development power lie in the future? With Japan and the traditional industry powerhouses (Square-Enix, Capcom, etc.)? With America and their huge companies like EA and Activision? With Europe, with companies such as Lionhead and Ubisoft? Or is there somewhere completely different that will take the world by storm?
Will Wright: I think what we think of as professional games that you buy in a software store, there is very much a consolidation trend in the industry. But I think the real power in the future is going to be much more in the hands of consumers. Because when I see people doing [indiscernible] things like the Sims or Second Life or Spore or even on the Web in general, the most amazing things I see are things that the players have created or done in game. So I would like to think a lot of people are pursuing that as a trend in game development. So I think handing over more authorial control to the player to me will put the players in a much more of a driver role in terms of where games go in the future.
It would be nice if the players were--in fact I know a lot of players that are--actually actively earning money from these games. You've probably heard of gold farmers in China that are actually playing online games to earn cash. I heard a lot of stories about people who put up Web sites for the Sims that ended up getting so much traffic, they were getting an ISP bill that they had to explain to their spouse. They got a monthly bill for $2,000 for their fan site, their hobby. So they had to get a subscription, and they were charging $5.00 a month. And they were getting thousands of subscribers. And some of these people were turning a quarter of a million dollars a year in profit on their fan site. But I think that's very cool because they were obviously creating that much value, more value than that, for the players they were serving.
TsarVan: How difficult has it been to blend Spore's very different styles of play into a compelling, continuous experience?
WW: That's probably been the single most challenging thing about Spore, actually. I mean, we had a lot major technical challenges about doing animation and all these user tools and all that, but the single greatest challenge was making it feel like a very cohesive experience because we wanted to have a very consistent UI control scheme and goal structure for each level. But yet we were dealing with different genres in essence, you know, Pac Man, first-person shooter, RTS, you know, and MMO, these very different genres. And that's probably taken the most of my work and a lot of iteration.
You get one level just right and all of a sudden it doesn't seam up with the next level. So it's like you pound down this nail and that nail pops up. You pound down that one, this one pops up. You keep doing it and over time on the average the nails are going down, but it doesn't always feel like it.
Gbrading: In what new directions do you think the games industry can move in the future?
WW: The most exciting direction for me for the games industry is learning more about the player. And I mean, the computer observing what the player does and learning to respond to that. Because games are getting inherently more and more malleable where the game itself can customise itself to each player, especially if you're drawing from user content. Possibly even from data on the Web. I can see a lot of games actually basing their data set on general stuff on the Web that they can pull down as needed based upon what the player's interested in, what they do.
But I think that's one of the primary differences between interactive media and linear media is the fact that in interactive media every player is going to have a different experience. And I think the breadth of that experience, what it can be, is tremendously higher than what it currently is. And I'd like to imagine you and I start playing the same game and a month later they're radically different games and the game has evolved to fit us. In some sense it becomes a very real reflection of your psyche. And I think that's the most exciting direction for games for me.
Gbrading: What do you think the game industry will look like in a decade's time?
WW: A decade's time... I would like to think that we're starting to see really interesting, strange hybrid forms of gaming that are coming outside of the box. We're starting to see a lot of experience where people are bringing gaming in reality and playing games on location with their cell phones and stuff like that. I think blended experience across media, we'll see much more. Hopefully games will be interesting enough where it's something I can't foresee right now. If I could tell you what gaming is going to be like in 10 years, it wouldn't be that interesting. But the fact that I can't even see three years out, that's about my horizon, my planning horizon.