Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

“I”ve Been to the Ninth Circle of Monetization Hell – It’s Called the Arcades.”

Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 10, 2012

Gamasutra has last year’s presentation by Mark Cerny where he talks about how the face of gaming has changed since he started as a developer in Atari’s coin-op division. And how – in his view – things still need to change:

Mark Cerny – “The Long View” (Or as Gamasutra titles it, “How developers are still fighting their arcade heritage 30 years later”)

The guy’s been at it for quite a bit longer (and more consistently) than I have, so I’d not dismiss his opinions likely.  Going back and retro-gaming older console titles, the arcade heritage is painfully obvious and can be downright annoying.  Why is the game still treating me like it’s trying to drain quarters from my pocket constantly when I already own the game?

In many cases, the answer is: “Because otherwise you’ll finish the entire game in 20 minutes.”  That was, I think, the other reason to why games cost so much to make nowadays — as we move away from this old-school approach of forcing the player to start over (at the beginning of the game, or beginning of the level, or whatever), we find that not only does content take FAR more time to make for modern systems, but that we need a heck of a lot more of it to give the player something to do.

I am not sure about his conclusion about games ‘helping’ the player. This isn’t just the videogame heritage. How do you feel if you are playing any game with someone, and you suspect they are deliberately “throwing” the game to allow you to win? I mean, it’s one thing if it’s up front, and you are playing with a handicap against a better player. That’s fine. For me, victory is almost as sweet in those circumstances. But if you feel they are deliberately letting you win?  If you win, it feel hollow, and if you lose, you feel even worse.

He also mentions the glut of cheap games filling bargain bins as the harbinger of video game crash of 1982, but doesn’t see a counterpart in today’s dumping ground of $1 iPhone games and Steam mega-sales.  He opines that the diversity of games makes the difference, and I do hope he is right. And I suspect he’s dead-on about the endangerment of the “$50 million games.” I’ve long felt that was unsustainable, even back when it was only $10 million games.

I recommend this talk as fascinating look into the world of top-tier game development from the early 1980s to today.  It’s been a fascinating thirty years…

Filed Under: Game Development - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Armaan said,

    It’s true. I just played Out of This World 20th Anniversary, and it took me a couple hours to beat. It took me weeks when I first played it many years ago because of the brutal difficulty level. Every single classic game I’ve replayed have always turned out to be short, and nobody wants to pay 60 bucks for a four hour game.

    I actually prefer short games, though. I’ve replayed Medal of Honour 2010 a few times because it was a great experience and also because it was very short, so re-playing didn’t feel like a chore. Same with Hard Reset, and lots of other titles. Those games don’t even offer any randomness, they are always the same, but still fun nonetheless. I think developers should focus on short, fun experiences that make you want to play over and over again because they’re cool, and not try to make drawn-out twenty-hour games that you get bored with halfway through, regret buying, and never play again.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    “How do you feel if you are playing any game with someone, and you suspect they are deliberately “throwing” the game to allow you to win?”

    True, that would be unsatisfying, but the old arcade style games of the past were not operating on a level playing field either. They are doing the opposite of your scenario. Most of them were cheating to beat you. So the question becomes, “How would you feel if you were playing any game with someone, and you suspect they are deliberately “cheating” to keep you from winning?”

    Ghosts n’ Goblins forcing you to play the exact same game a second time without dying to “win” comes to mind. It is exactly like playing a game with someone, winning, and them shouting, “Nope! It’s got to be 2 out 3 for you to win!”

    Too many old school designers seemed to feel antagonistic towards the players of their game. I read (I forget where – a link from the CRPG Addict’s blog I believe) that one of the designers on Bard’s Tale 2 or 3 actually gloated about designing dungeons that would be unbeatable – thus “winning” against the players. That wasn’t fair gamesmanship – it was total asymmetrical power – a designer burning the “ants” playing his game with a magnifying glass.

    It is also a question of whether or not the goal of a game is to be a competitive challenge or a fun and entertaining experience or a device for telling a story – or some combination of all three. Each has different design concerns, and if your goal is to tell a story and entertain, you definitely don’t want “skill gates” locking out some players from end game content.

  • Ruber Eaglenest said,

    However, for adults with little time, arcade kind of games are just perfect. Take a look to the manifesto of Locomalito http://www.locomalito.com/filosofia.php

    Short bursts of gameplay with great intensity. You progress because your skills are better with the game. And finally you obtain a piece of narrative that is resolved in 20 minutes or less. Men, this is perfect for us.

    The Coyote has talked several times about this, but he tried to apply this necessities to his favourite long-play games. But I propose you the following: What about a RPG of 20 minutes long?

  • Armaan said,

    Hmm, an intensely difficult RPG that can be played out in 20 minutes with lots of hidden secrets? I’d like to see that.