Buzz! dev: We need to make games for Miyamoto's wife

One of the brains behind Sony's trivia quiz game series believes that the industry needs to stop being so snobbish about casual games.

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BRIGHTON, UK--Relentless creative director and cofounder David Amor told delegates at the Develop Conference on the UK's south coast that he thinks its time that people stopped looking down their noses at social, party-style games.

Amor is the brains behind Buzz! The Music Quiz, a 2005 PlayStation 2 title that came with four buzzers with bright red buttons. The game was a casual gaming success story, and has since spawned a handful of spin-offs.

Amor's presentation was titled "Making Games for Miyamoto's Wife," but those expecting dirt on a game development love triangle would have walked away disappointed. The name of the session was actually a reference to Shigeru Miyamoto's keynote address at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year. During his speech, Miyamoto said he uses his nongaming wife's interest in a title as a measure of how successful he has been at making a fun, accessible game.

He told the conference attendees, "People were really snobby about it in the specialist press. Not in the mainstream press though, the mainstream press loved it. I don't like that we've got used to this feeling that somehow these games are second-rate and unsexy to develop. We loved making Buzz!"

Amor revealed that the game had first featured a group of zany characters as contestants and hosts, including an onion, a clam, hot dog, and a giant wisdom tooth. According to Amor, "Sony said lose the clam, use new characters to make it more accessible. So we changed the crazy characters to musical stereotypes."

Relentless also originally had some 30 or so different quiz games, but whittled it down to the eight which were "really, really simple."

The creative director said that after the game was released in October 2005, it debuted in the top 20, before moving into the top 10, and then began to sink, seemingly out of the charts, in the normal trajectory. Relentless was then working on another Buzz! game, Buzz! The Big Quiz, the first of many planned, and Amor received a terse call from Sony saying that would likely be the last in the series. He laughed, "They'd made a lot of buzzers and it looked like they were going to have to build a big hole in the desert somewhere [for them]."

Then something miraculous happened--over the Christmas holiday and new year period, the game never left the top 20. "The week after Christmas was our peak period," said Amor. "We think that's because people would go round other people's houses and play it, then think, 'This is a good game, and it's only £30, I'll get it too.'"

He listed his five criteria for making a successful game for "mainly drunk nongamers." It must be something they know already (for example, pretty much everyone has watched a quiz show at some point), simple, approachable, it has to provide opportunities for entertainment offscreen, and it's vitally important for the developers to choose the right interface.

Amor strongly believes that Buzz! The Music Quiz, the first Buzz! Game, would not have been as successful had it not been for the buzzers which came with the title. They drew attention to the packaging in stores, making it stand out from other titles, and the buzzers were dead simple in comparison to other controllers.

"Sixaxis has 17 buttons on it," Amor noted. "It's quite an intimidating interface."

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