Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The Magic Game-Making Box

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 28, 2012

Okay, there’s a quote I love but I forget who said it – someone at Bioware I think. I thought I’d try to harness the power of the Internet to get the exact quote and who said it.

Basically, the quote goes something like this: If you were to build gamers a magical box that, with the push of a button, would create the perfect game for each gamer, uniquely tailored to their preferences and wishes, there would be a certain contingent of gamers who would go online and complain bitterly about the color of the box.

I expect most of you know all about that, though few (hopefully none) of you would actually fall into that contingent…

Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 9 Comments to Read

  • Califer said,

    The box isn’t old school enough.

  • Automata said,

    I think that’s at the very least a little disingenuous for two reasons. First, because just because someone complains about a feature that the developer doesn’t think it’s important doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not. Second, because this is not what game developers are doing, by any stretch of the imagination, and it comes off as horribly dismissive of any criticism/complaint, both frivolous and meaningful.

    Take your previous posting and consider this point: if the game-making box had been painted red, and the button green, for color blind people it could cause a lot of problems in actually getting it to work. Granted, that might not be entirely going along with the meaning of the quote, but it’s important to remember that people do value things differently from others, and some details can matter a lot.

    Also, game developers/publishers are not making games to be all things to all people; they make decisions (like turn-based vs real-time combat) that are going to disappoint some subset of gamers looking for something that they like to play; and that’s not even taking to account quality or bugs or any of the other factors of gaming. Comparing a single game to some perfect entertainment machine is a bad analogy, and pretty much comes off as “Oh, you gamers, you’ll complain about everything!” and is really stupid to do, since our unmet desires are what enables game developers to earn money on every game that came after the first one, and will continue to do so.

    The big problem, as I see it at least, is the conflation of community and individuals. I do it too, and I understand that it’s easier to do it, but it’s still wrong. I’ll call it the Codex fallacy, after the RPG Codex. People on the Codex have a number of opinions, and as it’s relatively uncensored you get a lot of hate for games (stuff that gets removed from other fan sites, sometimes unnecessarily, and dangerous to the continued health of the community, but that’s a separate issue). So yes, if the viewpoint “the Codex hates everything” is taken to mean “someone on the Codex will hate something”, then that’s probably true. However, that’s different than “everyone on the Codex will hate everything”, which is generally what it gets conflated to.

    The same thing here: developers will obviously hear complaints about their games a lot from unsatisfied gamers; that doesn’t mean that all gamers all feel this way.

    Otherwise, the quote is just saying “Some people don’t like some of the stuff we do”, which is true, but hardly worth mentioning.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    What you say is certainly true. However, I do think there is a certain mentality (not a common one, but certainly a vocal one) that tends to derive the most pleasure from heaping public criticism upon targets and tearing others down.

    But I think the quote also speaks to the simple fact that you can’t please everybody. Exactly as you say.

  • Automata said,

    As to your first point, I agree that it exists, but not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. Designing stuff is difficult, especially if you’re doing it primarily on your own or in a position where the others involved will want to spare your feelings or feel that they have to listen to you.

    It’s often a good canary in the coal mine: most of the games that get torn apart in this manner either deserve it in the sense of having terrible design choices (see ET), or have had their developers/publishers bring it on themselves (see Daikatana). People tear stuff apart, but in general it usually only gains traction when there’s some truth to the points that get brought up; otherwise there’s usually a counterargument that’ll balance it out that a fan will probably bring up.

    I tend to think fans are a far bigger problem: when it gets to the stage where they’ll defend any terrible design choice, you’re risking making even more mistakes that the market is going to be far harsher on that the biggest critics.

    Then again: I tend to have a very negative view on most things, especially things in areas I’m passionate about. Mostly because if you’re not applying the proper pressure onto something, there’s nothing trying to make it improve.

    And then you get the equivalent of Star Wars I-III.

    As to the second, there’s certainly ways of phrasing that sentiment that don’t come off as being somewhat self-pitying and ego-stroking. Even if it was meant in a humorous way (which is could very well have been), the words themselves have that tone.

  • GhanBuriGhan said,

    I don’t like the font you use for that blog post!

  • BvG said,

    aww you removed my flamebait post 🙁

  • skavenhorde said,

    Words with tone in them are the worst. They never have enough pitch.

    Posters should work on that and improve it to my liking!

  • Bronte said,

    I feel for the developers. I do. They try to make a game that a vast majority of their fans will like at the end of the day. The players come from a vast number of backgrounds, socio-economic rungs of the social ladder, religions, regions, beliefs, upbringings and whatnot. To try and incorporate what everyone wants would be measurably infinite.

    But then again we get things like Dragon Age II, and Patch 1.1 in SWTOR, and you have to wonder, what thell went on over there in the developers’ corner?

  • jzoeller said,


    “What you say is certainly true. However, I do think there is a certain mentality (not a common one, but certainly a vocal one) that tends to derive the most pleasure from heaping public criticism upon targets and tearing others down.”

    It’s called rpgcodex, lol 🙂