Updated Wed, Jan 02, 2008 by Cody Bye
Ten Ton Hammer: So the legitimacy of video games is just waiting for our latest generation of youth to grow up?
Brian: Most likely, but this is not enough for me. I would rather do something instead of just sitting on my hands and waiting for things to happen “naturally.” I want to be able to design games that reach people and have a meaningful impact on their lives. I can do this already, but the prejudice against games being a “kiddy medium” prevents some people from enjoying my work.
Plus, I want the best and brightest creative minds to want to create games. A friend of mine is a very creative person and a wonderful writer, but he has turned his back on games and is trying to break into movie writing. It saddens me that as an avid game player he didn’t want to get into games to tell stories. Unfortunately, for some people, video games are just a place for people who couldn’t break into movies.
I have to wonder how many other people feel the same way. If games were more legitimate and respected, and therefore had more smart people working on issues relating to engaging players and telling meaningful stories in an interactive environment, how much more interesting would games be if we had more smart people working on them?
Few veteran designers have worked on making a tasteful "mature" themed game, due to the subject matter. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines is one of the few mainstream titles that included a sex-scene.
Ten Ton Hammer: I’ve heard rumors that you’re working on an “adult” game….could you go into any details about it? Is it going to be an MMO?
Brian: I’ve done a fair amount of consulting for various games. And, yes, one game has a very heavy focus on sexual interaction, but the focus was more on social interaction rather than gameplay as it is traditionally defined.. I can’t name the project specifically, but there is definitely some interest in developing sexually-themed games. The problem is, of course, that few “legitimate” game developers are willing to make such as risqué game so you have inexperienced developers making the same newbie mistakes we struggled with in the past. It’s the whole cycle of learning happening again.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will making a “good” pornographic game help bring sex and video games closer to attaining that legitimacy we were discussing earlier?
Brian: I talked about this on my blog at http://www.psychochild.org/?p=285 after reading an essay by Alan Moore about this topic. As I said, I think one way for games to be considered legitimate is to stop using juvenile sexual titillation in our games. Treating sex as a mature topic would be a great step forward, instead of treating it like a locker room topic.
I’m not sure if this idea is feasible or possible in games, but I thought it is an interesting idea.
Ten Ton Hammer: Judging from your blog, you seem to have a fascination with “jaded” gamers. Do these sort of gamers hold a high place in your vision, or are they just fun to watch rant and rave? Can the average gamer gain anything of value from a “jaded gamer”?
Brian: Sometimes you don’t just the community, sometimes it chooses you. The “jaded gamers” are the community I fell into when I was working on M59. There were a lot of kindred spirits there, people who enjoyed these types of games and could see their potential.
I think it’s important to remember that the jaded people aren’t all jaded for the sake of being jaded. I think some people, like me, are a bit disappointed how online games aren’t living up to their potential. Why do we see so many clones of a single type of gameplay? What’s the reality check behind the new game claiming to be bigger and better than all the others? Despite the negative attitudes, these people have perspective that is useful for developers and other gamers.
Of course, there’s also the downside. Sometimes the jadedness makes them a poor audience to attract. And, some of the people who have been jaded for so long that they cannot get excited about something that is truly new and original. It’s easy to dismiss anything new that comes along when you think you’ve seen it all before.
Ten Ton Hammer: Can you talk about your current MMO project that you’re heading up with Jessica Mulligan? Or is everything still under pretty tight wraps?
Brian: All I can say is that it’s an unannounced title currently under pre-production. I will add that it’s a project I’m very excited about because it’s not the same old type of game.
Ten Ton Hammer: In your opinion, what do you think is the future of MMO games, both big and small? Where are our virtual worlds headed, and what sort of advancements should we expect to see in the future?
Brian: It’s hard to predict the future accurately. It’s hard to take much science fiction written before the 90s seriously because few people predicted the internet, which changed how our world worked on a massive scale. I like to think I’ve got my finger on the pulse of how these things will work, but I know I’m more likely to be wrong as right.
According to Brian Green, smaller games, like Myst Online, are going to be the future of the industry.
With that in mind, I think the future is in smaller games. One point I made in my talk at the recent conference is that WoW has changed our perceptions, so that many games are considered “small” these days. I think the future will be defined more by the games with 100,000 to 200,000 players rather than games with the numbers WoW claims.
The funny thing is that a game at this level is still highly profitable. As long as you manage your development and maintenance costs, you can make a lot of money off of “only” 100,000 users. Especially if you start looking at other business models besides subscriptions, because you can make more money per user and have a higher profit margin. So, there is little reason not to make this type of game if, like most developers, you cannot afford to make a game to compete directly with WoW.
I think it is also exciting because it has the chance to give us a wider variety of games to choose from. If you plan your game to cater to 100,000 users, you can make a game that appeals more directly to them instead of watering down content to satisfy the least common denominator.
If that happens, then I think we’ll see all sorts of changes that make any predictions we could make now completely moot. This would be very exciting to see, in my opinion!
Make sure you check out the first part of our interview with Brian Green!
Do you think the future of MMOs is in smaller, niche games? Voice your opinion on the forums!