Pursuit of AAA is a 'cancerous growth' - AC3 dev

Assassin's Creed 3 creative director Alex Hutchinson believes aiming for graphical fidelity and scale will make AAA games "nothing more than the last of the dinosaurs."


The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the biggest in the business both inside and out. Its latest entry--Revelations--shipped over 7 million units and represented a step forward in terms of graphics power and scale within the series. But according to Assassin's Creed 3 creative director Alex Hutchinson, this represents "cancerous growth."

The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the industry's biggest.
The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the industry's biggest.

Speaking at a 2012 Game Developers Conference session titled "Designing Games to Sell," 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, according to Hutchison, 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. "I think that will leave the AAA blockbusters as nothing more than the last of the dinosaurs."

Hutchinson concluded his talk by offering an ideal aim for video games.

"In my mind, video games need to have the goal of educating people, entertaining people, or at least being artistic," he said. "If you're not pushing any of these things...then I think we're in for a rough patch."

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Avatar image for Yomigaeru

DLC has become the cancerous growth, not AAA games. It started as a noble idea: a way to support a game with additional content after release. But in reality, it is used to nickel and dime consumers by enticing us to buy pieces of a game that were stripped away from a finished product. Worse still, we've got a number of instances in which the content is already on disc, and we're literally just using a code to access content that we already own. The man makes some good points, but given that he's a part of a franchise whose design somewhat embodies the stagnancy of the industry (pushing graphical achievement and having annual releases, namely) then perhaps he's not the best spokesperson for a "better" method of game design.

Avatar image for M3o5nster

@ EPaul LOL yes, I was just thinking, these guys are pumping out new releases every year and they want to talk about what's ruining gaming? I think he's just making an excuse for them not pushing the limits in ACIII and instead going for a quick turn-around profit... MGS series has shown us that if you take the time, you can put out top notch graphics and offer depth at the same time.

Avatar image for EPaul

Does anyone else find this story abit ironic

Avatar image for ArabrockermanX

@kid23455 His choice is make it or find a new job. I get what he is trying to say I think it just came out all wrong or these quotes take it out of context.

Avatar image for Vickman178

He forgot to mention they should be FUN.. You know why we started playing them in the first place?

Avatar image for Cube_Girl

So he's complaining while making the exact same thing he's condemning. Hmm.

Avatar image for kid23455

-Hates games that are about good graphics and scale -Makes an open-world game with good graphics. This guy would make a great hipocracy meme.

Avatar image for TomaTuYucota

In the end, you gotta combine and balance it all. Can't focus on just one thing. Too AAA advanced graphics = Looks dated in 3 years (ie Doom3) Too artsy = nobody buys it Too educational = Eeeww Too entertaining = Dumb in most people's mind And I don't think the creative director of Assassin's Creed, a game that has used the same art and location for 3 freaking games (and the story moving nowhere), would be the best person to comment on how to move forward and innovate

Avatar image for nurnberg

He is totally wrong. AAA games is what gamers want. The AAA games will always be among the games that make the most money. The developers will continue to make them because that's what the players want.

Avatar image for dragondoom01

Does he not realize AC has become a cancerous growth?

Avatar image for fearospuds

The guy who makes Assassin's Creed thinks AAA games are going to get worse...If I worked all day on that atrocious franchise, I'd be inclined to agree.

Avatar image for terrascythe

Gamers have proven one thing beyond any doubt; the ability to learn a game and apply its rules and strategies in order to receive a known payoff. These payoffs are mastered to such a degree that gamers subsequently demand more of the same scenarios, controls, and leveling. The dilemma faced by game developers is the same issue teachers and parents struggle with. How do we get young people to learn and master a new and challenging craft, but also enjoy it? How do we introduce a new fangled concept in a market dominated by FPS and RPG masters? So, developers can try something new and hope gamers are willing to learn it, or they can make games with a proven market filled with youngster eager to fork over cash. Video games are one of the most effective learning tools in the modern era, yet here we are approaching COD15 or something. We've mastered FPS, keep those coming, but it's also time for something new to learn.

Avatar image for Gliave

PS: Looks like we got a communist on our hands....He just named advancement and innovation a "cancerous growth". Fire 'em on the spot already..

Avatar image for Gliave

It seems like developers are trying to undermine "graphical Fidelity & Scale of game" and subconsciously have the public disdain those core features of any decent game, to drop their costs and have us settle for side scrolling bits of poop on "Super power-full consoles" that cost the earth. If you're thinking you'll get folks like me into obsolete gaming experiences provided by calculator-tech based consoles such as the Pegasus / SEGA Mega drive at this day and age.....You got another thing comin' my sly stingy-arsed friend. The day you drop AAA games, is the day I'll drop my console from the tallest tower I find.... Great graphics, a good story, and an immensely large and complicated world are what make a game "AAA". We want MORE. Hologram-gaming and beyond.

Avatar image for rgrambo

Profit mongers don't understand the concept of joy or simple pleasures like playing video games. Were just suckers in their eyes. That's why they need creative people (devs) who understand that games are fun to play. The more joy the better the game. If a dev starts to over intelectualize, I'd say his he's crossing over to the darkside. Probably a hot, ambitious wife or gambling debts.

Avatar image for IronBeaver

Wait, I don't get it. Whats wrong with working hard to make AAA games? It sounds like this guy thinks they cannot be entertaining or artistic.

Avatar image for electroflame

His argument would be more valid if they still made good games. He's being hypocritcal, which means I can't take what he says at face value. They're contributing to that "dystopian future" he was talking about.

Avatar image for aermeus

Funny...ive posted here numerous times over the years arguing that games should be smaller and focused at target audiences rather than being proverbial "pg-13 movies" that aim to fill as many seats as possible. Making money for investors has become to influential in games. A company can remain a moderate size and still make great games. Take for example Demon/Dark Souls...small company relatively speaking that knows they are targeting a specific audience and still realizes they can make a large profit.

Avatar image for ZedX-14Pilot

Look, some of what this guy is saying may be 'part' of why the games industry has changed, and not for the better. BUT, I say he might as well sell out completely, and just say what he is REALLY saying. 'We want to make even MORE money, and work even less to do it.' Triple A is just that, the cream of the crop. Which means EVERY aspect of the game needs top tier talent and attention to pull off. I, for one, love the AC series, and laugh at people who try and pick it apart. I am REALLY looking forward to AC 3. In short people, when it comes to big companies, all they are ever looking for is a way to push THEIR agenda, and keep even more of the money they generate. Even if that means pushing out a turd of a product.

Avatar image for wildog2006

@Jinzo_111887 Yeah, that and the millions they spend on marketing. I mean, if your game is so great, shouldn't it sell itself? Why do they feel the need to spend so much money trying to sell to people who couldn't care less?

Avatar image for Victorious_Fize

I agree. Being a consumer of lesser developers that couldn't cut it with the insane standards of the industry, I wholeheartedly understand his sentiment.

Avatar image for Jinzo_111887

I'm pretty sure that's why games are so expensive and these companies are punishing used game buyers. They blow their budget chasing after perfection, then look for some way to recapture it without a lot of effort.

Avatar image for DuaneDog

We live in times where the best of the best will have all the desirable qualities of aesthetics, gameplay, and reasonably priced. I want a game that combines the mmorpg aspects of WoW + social/political/dynasty aspects of Guild 2 + the economic aspects of anon 2070 + gameplay smoothness of devil may cry + the world building aspects of Minecraft. But what I noticed in that list is that graphics never is the thing that I MUST have in a great game.

Avatar image for Link_Destined_1

This guy has pretty much stated the two big complaints of hardcore gamers today that remember the old days: companies are too busy catering to the lowest common denominator (the general public, though I don't seek to use that in a derogatory way) and they're going crazy with the graphics, not giving any regard to good game design. The industry best take heed.

Avatar image for xX_MOBIUS1_Xx

@phrozac ....ummm good burn lol

Avatar image for Jeremy473

I cant wait to see what they do with ac3. All I care about is gameplay and story. If it has a good story and fun gameplay, it will be enough to keep me happy.

Avatar image for phrozac

@ Sauron_X From what you said about the types of games from the 2600, I don't actually believe you played said games. The glut of trash which was released for that system was in large part responsible for the vg crash in the early 80's. I have been a gamer for nearly 3 decades, and a dev for over 1. Open your eyes, buddy. Just to name a few right off the top of my head- Side-scrollers: Shadow Complex, Limbo, Super Meatboy, Moon Diver, Braid, Shoot Many Robots Top-down: HOMM, any number of TD or Robotron styled games, Advance Wars and Fire Emblem Isometric: Diablo 3, Torchlight, Alien Swarm, Alien Breed, all the DOTA/MOBA's. You son, get the same msg I gave to Sorrow_42: "Are you one of those guys who only plays COD and similar FPSs, or the AC series of annual sneak trysts, or JRPG's that start with FF and end in 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 11-2, 12, 13, 13-214? You know...there are other games out there. Just look. There is plenty of soul to be had. Don't have such a myopic view of your choices and you will be rewarded. If you ARE that guy, then you are part of the problem you lament."

Avatar image for LoganDaDestroya

He does realise modern games have been getting smaller in scale right? Just look at what happened to BF3...

Avatar image for Khoo1992

ya, in many ways. Just like Crysis 2, it looks absolutely beautiful, but the gameplay is just as normal as other FPSes

Avatar image for demonic_85

Dystopian future??? We're already there. Tons of series out there that have yearly releases and paid DLC just to cash in... and AC is one of them.

Avatar image for jpnelson82

Really dude? I can't decide whether this developer is trying to be Howard Beale or Quintillius Varrus. We know, games like CoD, and for that matter, most FPS games are rehashes of the same tired old system that has been around since 2000, according to some game commentators. 3rdPS are not much better. I'm not impressed with Assassin's Creed recently either. They released two AC3 Betas, disguised as full games, for the price of a full game. The real point of them was to test new features with the community, and see whether it was worth putting them in AC3. So, Centurion pull out your Gladius and fall on it. Before you do though, think about TC's Endwar, Skyrim, The Witcher 2, Mount and Blade,limitations of the platform, and what adding online multiplayer does to games. Done, now you can swan dive onto your sword. Unless of course you were being neither Varrus, nor Beale, but Rodney Dangerfield, in which case, ha ha very funny.

Avatar image for BibiMaghoo

@Suaron_x Yeah, cos its not like some of the biggest franchises on every platform are third person or anything........ People complain about the amount of FPS, well, dont buy them then. There are plenty of games that are not FPS. You just arnt paying attention.

Avatar image for Suaron_x

@phrozac "In fact the industry has never been so full of variety as it is today..." Seriously?!?! Have you played games from previous eras? Since the advent of Xbox360 and PS3 almost all games are based upon the first person perspective. Varying swords, guns and RPG elements into the FPS model does not create variety. Its the same model, different colored paint. Games had more variety on the Atari 2600 than on any modern system after the Sega Genesis. (NOTE: Games today are, for the most part, better than the what was offered on the Atari 2600). I wish publishers would delve into games beyond the FPS model. Bring back some side scrollers, top down views, and 3D isometrics. What happened to flight simulators (especially space oriented), strategy games (other than civilization), and puzzle games (lemmings comes to mind)?

Avatar image for taino1128

Graphics do not equal overall quality. I personally feel that story, setting, gameplay, and sound are all A LOT more important than graphics. When done right, all of those things will make a game more fun. Great graphics don't always bring more fun to the game. A good example of this would be my favorite game of all time - GTA: San Andreas. At the time the game came out, the graphics did look a bit dated and the frame rate was choppy as hell, but I didn't care because every other aspect of the game was perfect. Hell, I could probably play it now and those aspects would be better than some other games that came out THIS generation. I feel that this generation, graphics are too much of a focus in making games.

Avatar image for blackwingzero

In some ways he's right and in others he's wrong. On the one side of things ya the whole concept of designing games to sell can really get on people's nerves or even cause genera or even game fitigue(I'm looking at you COD). At the same time though unless developers willing to take risks and try something different and build up to that AAA status developers will be nothing more copycat's.

Avatar image for anakissed

I love Assassins Creed and the fact it is entertaining yet you can actually learn from it. I've learnt more about history from these games then I ever did in school and it only males you want to learn more so you can understand more what it was like for the characters to live in these times, and you get more involved in the story. There aren't many games out there that can do that

Avatar image for phrozac

@ Sorrow_42 Are you one of those guys who only plays COD and similar FPSs, or the AC series of annual sneak trysts, or JRPG's that start with FF and end in 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 11-2, 12, 13, 13-214? You know...there are other games out there. Just look. There is plenty of soul to be had. Don't have such a myopic view of your choices and you will be rewarded. If you ARE that guy, then you are part of the problem you lament.

Avatar image for phrozac

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

Avatar image for phrozac

This guy is an alarmist gasbag. His two scenarios will never play out because we aren't all of us robotic automatons. The spectrum of developers is as varied as the consumer. In fact the industry has never been so full of variety as it is today and is showing no signs of stagnation. Just take the first half of this month for example: We see the release of Mass Effect 3 - a "AAA" blockbuster, I Am Alive - an experimental DL title from a big publisher, and Journey - one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen and from a small dev team with a big publisher whose play time is around 2-3 hours. Don't forget all the XBLA/PSN and WEB games out there. I would have yawned and wandered out of this dude's speech to go look at Sword & Sworcery or SF x Tekken or something more worthwhile.

Avatar image for de_graph

I cant wait for the death of the AAA titles. It's primarily overpriced schlock. Sure, every now and then a good one pops out, but we are far too oversaturated with recycled gameplay. Then again, if drones will keep buying it, the corporate-schlock machine will keep making it! :D

Avatar image for mwmars

"In my mind video games need to have the goal of educating people, entertaining people, or at least being artistic," he said...... Well,... duh. At their absolute most basic core, every single game that's ever been made was designed to entertain people. I'm not even sure exactly what this guy is trying to say other than don't be a slave to the dollar. Even then, there's really nothing wrong with making something people want to buy. The trick, as I once heard Kevin Van Ord say, is to innovate and create a game that people didn't know that they would enjoy/wanted to buy. The market will allow for both.

Avatar image for Sorrow_42

Games nowadays have no soul,only few have soul and most of them are not from big Companies like Activision and EA.Its all about money and milking,their going with sequels cause its a safe road if they liked the first why wouldn't they buy the second(and goes on).Clearly as you can see they lack ideas reusing formulas over and over again and everyone copies from the other and a true gamer IMHO doesn't care about graphics its the content,gameplay and story that count most for me,what would I do with a game with Superb graphics if it doesn't have good gameplay or any of the above?I would throw it away.They put so much emphasis on graphics that they overlook the critical parts that makes a game good. Peace

Avatar image for kmconstable

Spoken like a TRUE console lover. I agree that Indie games have reminded us that horsepower does not make a great game, but higher fidelity and horsepower is just an asset that if harnessed properly can be amazing.

Avatar image for soccerpzn

All the game designer companies should group up once and make a super game lol.

Avatar image for Megavideogamer

Umm if we could hold off on the "Massive arms race" until the 8th generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony arrive. Cancerous like growth could help kickstart the 8th generation. in 2013

Avatar image for staranise

Yep. He`s jabbing at activision and EAWare...

Avatar image for fadersdream

I think he's confused about who the dinosaurs are. Since when do low standards equal artistic?

Avatar image for svaubel

Ive said it before I will say it again, all the graphics horepower in the world doesnt mean squat without the gameplay to back it up. Personally I dont think 60$ games that will last you only 5 hours are worth the money. Also getting tired of everything now being called AAA. What does that mean exactly? The games with the biggest bugdets or ones that are predicted to get a score of 9 but seldom do?

Avatar image for worlock77

[quote]"In my mind video games need to have the goal of educating people, entertaining people, or at least being artistic," he said. "If you're not pushing any of these things…then I think we’re in for a rough patch."[/quote] And how are games not meeting at least one of those goals?

Avatar image for endorbr

Yeah can't agree with this guy. Truly great games need to do ALL of these things. Pushing for greater scale, graphical fidelity, being artistic, entertaining, and possibly even educating people. The problem with most companies is they just get hung up on one or two of these ideas and that's why they usually fall flat. They may sell millions of copies like CoD but they don't achieve that truly great status. In the end these things by themselves don't make a great game but that doesn't mean that developers shouldn't strive to fulfill all these objectives to some degree.