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The Design Challenge: Harvey Smith On Gaming With A Social Change
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The Design Challenge: Harvey Smith On Gaming With A Social Change

September 25, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

GS: You've previously mentioned that you've got strong opinions on developer-publisher relations. What were they? Have they been mitigated by working for a company that acts as both?

HS: I think it's only a matter of time before online distribution is king. I think some publishers are too risk averse. I think "developing new concepts" is the lifeblood of the industry. Midway is in the middle of something good. You can feel it, working here. There've been turbulent times, of course, but the team surrounding the top execs is really, really interesting. They are on a mission, driven, and they make more sense to me than any previous group of execs.

GS: You've also expressed interest in the past in independent development, which has been heavily in the spotlight lately with Microsoft's XNA Creator's Club, Manifesto Games, and more accessible tools in general--

HS: To me, my technical status as an independent or not has never mattered. It's what I can do that matters. I'm creatively engaged right now, with some very ambitious goals. I'd rather be doing that than working at an independent company doing ports (just to choose an extreme example). For me, it's not about the status of ownership; it's about creative fulfillment and the people I'm working around.

GS: Is indie development moving in the direction you'd like to see? Is this sort of power-to-the-people game creation what you were talking about, or was it a more personal message about leaving Ion Storm and looking for a new career path?

HS: For me, things are generally meant personally. I don't have strong opinions about the way "the game industry" should go. There's a Darwinian dynamic that will drive that. I think, wherever I'm at, people around me and above me have to understand that the best games spring from vision. In short, because someone (or more likely some group) burns to do something for no reason other than finding that thing interesting. There is no better reason to do something than that. Passionate vision, with good execution, will always produce the best games. I think that "good things happening for the industry" will be a second order consequence of creative people doing what they love.

GS: Have you received much feedback about your Peacebomb! proposal from GDC? Have you given it much extra consideration as an actual commercially viable title?


Peacebomb! Mock-Up

HS: Yeah, a lot of feedback has come my way. I can't talk about it, but there's been some cool interaction with a non-profit organization around the subject. After Peacebomb!, I got written up in the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, and a short time later I was on MTV, doing an interview with Will Wright, Cliffy B., and David Jaffee. I put some pics up and a link to the MTV segment here.

GS: We've seen gaming edging slowly a bit more toward collaborative social and communal experiences -- what more can game designers do to continue to influence this in a positive direction?

HS: Team play is still one of my favorite things. Speakerphone co-op Doom is still one of my favorite experiences. We're including features in our games now that try to facilitate some of those same feelings between players. FireTeam was all about that too. I really think that there's money to be made and good feelings (among players and developers) to engender by specifically building games around features that allow players to aid one another, to build one another up. Beyond giving each other resources or participating in group raids (which are both great, by the way), there's a lot that can be done in games where players specifically, asymmetrically aid one another in having a better play experience, even in action games.

Also, to get to the implicit politics in your question, I think we can score (financially and creatively) by trying to model more diverse subject matter. Okay, we know how to model gun play. Cool. I love it. Guess what, there's a lot of competition there. Maybe we should spend more time advancing models related to social structures: What happens if a handful of players were put in a persistent small town with persistent, memory-driven AI's and the ability to act socially or anti-socially? What would happen if we started modeling more subject matter with universal appeal, requiring less esoteric subject matter; Romeo and Juliet instead of Tolkien. I wish more people would model political or social trends. Or at least we could keep modeling gun play and add some interesting new collaborative tactics; throwing another player an ammo clip in a team-based shooter would be a huge win.


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