A Human Work: Denis Dyack On What Games Need
March 10, 2008 Page 1 of 4
Gamasutra has spoken to Denis Dyack before. An outspoken proponent of exploring and examining narrative in games and working practices in development, in this interview originally conducted at the recent DICE Summit in Las Vegas, he discusses these topics in more detail.
From thinking of new ways to structure development teams to a need for all elements of development to serve a central vision, the opinions of Dyack - who is also still conducting a lawsuit against Epic Games over issues Silicon Knights encountered in using Unreal Engine 3 - are as strong as ever.
Quizzed as the first
entry in his planned three-part epic, Too Human, was being prepared
to be seen by the press once again, he opened up about what the game's
success or failure could mean for his Ontario, Canada-based studio.
How are things going now? I
mean, you say that you're coming out of the dark here, so...
Denis Dyack: I feel that, in general, from a personal perspective -- both internally, and people who've worked on the project -- feel extraordinarily good about Too Human. And I think the overarching, real hurdle is going to be what you guys [the media] think about it.
And my opening [when I demo it] is really going to be: Let's forget about the stuff from the past, and judge the game for what it is. Look at it fairly from that perspective. And I feel if that happens, we're OK.
You know, if it doesn't, we're just going to live with it; but I'm just, sort of from a personal perspective on where the game has come, I'm still happy with it. I think it's great. I think it's gone beyond all our expectations and it's more than I wanted it to be in some ways.
Well, that's good. I mean, it's obviously going to be difficult for people to not measure it against their previous expectations, or thoughts that they may have had about the game previously, but it's not uncommon for games to change a lot, so...
DD: You know, I've been very forthcoming in saying that I don't know if it's a possibility to get over that stuff or not. I hope that's the case, and you just really hope for people calling it like it is, and that's it. That's all you can do. I don't pretend to be able to guess what anyone's going to think, but as I said, again, from my perspective personally, we think we've hit all the marks, and we're happy with it.
We were talking about the Norse Mythology influence earlier. I guess
by that time, all of the writing must've been done. Was it?
DD: Long time ago.
DD: Yeah, actually, a significant amount of writing, and the whole script in the entire trilogy has been worked on quite a bit.
Oh, wow. OK.
So it's basically mostly scripted out already? It seems like a good
way to build out the universe. You've got it all documented.
DD: It's the only way. What I like about what we've done, with the trilogy itself: This is not a -- you have some games, and you have some movies being called "trilogies," that were never meant to be trilogies. The first one was successful, they decided to do more, they decided to call it a trilogy. You know, there's four, they call it whatever you want to call it. And there's decologies, or whatever. You know, you get Final Fantasy X and stuff, but our story, our overarching story, is meant as a trilogy.
We have a theme, so the theme of the first game is discovery, the theme of the second game is revenge, the theme of the third game is enlightenment. And each game itself is encapsulated as a story, so there are no big cliffhangers, of, "Oh my God, Batman, what's going to happen next?" We're very specific in that, because I hate those kind of endings. I think anything like that, really, is a disservice to the gamer.
So, what it allows you to do is, there's
a beginning, and there's an end, and you know where it's going to be,
and it allows you to encapsulate everything. I'm a big believer in,
you know, learning from Hollywood, and writing rules. The thing about
Aristotle's Poetics, and just basic principles of -- don't put anything
superfluous in. If you have a character in there, he should serve a
purpose and a meaning. Not any of this sort of... You get a lot of games
out there, that are just, quite frankly, verbal diarrhea.
And I've heard it so many times, and
people say, "Well this game story is really good, for a video
game." And I think we have to sort of throw those ideas and
critiques away, and just say, "Is this a story, or not?" I
don't care if it's for a video game, I don't care if it's for a novel.
I think -- you know, this is definitely a really super-high watermark
-- I am a massive Hyperion fan. That is good literature to me -- Dan
Simmons. And that's a good science fiction. That's the kind of science
fiction that we're trying to achieve with Too Human.
We're not trying to shoot for some low watermark of some cheesy B-movie plot line. What we're trying to do is actually be serious about the literature, and we want to be judged in that light. I think if we're going to really take video games as a serious art form, we have to start stepping away, and stop saying, "Oh, this is just video games, therefore X is OK." Nothing is OK. You know? It needs to be the best possible that we can ever do.
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