I think it's just that we're coming off so many years of people being f*cked over by publishers that people find it hard to believe. I could be wrong.
And I don't think Bungie ever was. Maybe it's more natural from your perspective -- that things worked out for you.
MZ: I mean, it definitely felt unprecedented.
I'll take you back to art. One thing I wanted to talk about was what I touched on earlier, with the look and feel of the Halo world. How long were you there? From Halo 1 on?
MZ: Halo 2.
Look how people responded to BioShock. They brought on an art deco aesthetic, which as Ken Levine said in his presentation was familiar culturally, but unusual for games. I think that people underestimate the way aesthetic and world-building can affect players.
How do you think about that process?
MZ: Well, I think this kind of touches on your independence question. Fundamentally, I think any game developer wants to build things for themselves. As much as there's a target audience out there that I could identify with some market research and tailor a game design to, we're fortunate to work in a profession where you're playing all day, even though it's work. I haven't met a game developer that is punching the clock because they got stuck in a dead-end job. Everybody wants to be there. It's a really unique industry in that respect.
Naturally, you're building spaces that inspire you. I can get my satisfaction out of playing something maybe a lot grittier or realistic, but when it comes to being an artist and sitting down to work on it, every day I'd rather stretch my imagination a little more. I'd rather go on a fantastic journey, to some extent.
All of Bungie's games have had an element of the fantastic, whether it be sci-fi or fantasy or whatever. There's always something bigger, and I think that's something that games can do. They can offer you experiences that are larger than life in a way. It really comes down to that, building things that inspire you.
It seems like it's getting harder and harder to sell people fantasy. I'll quote David Jaffe, who said to me that in the PlayStation 1 era, it was maybe 80/20 for real/fantasy, then with the PS2 it became 90/10, and now it's nearly 100%.
MZ: Yeah. I don't know if there's... I was just in a future of the MMO panel earlier today, and somebody asked the whole "sci-fi versus fantasy -- what's more marketable?" I think the answers on the panel were pretty unanimous, and I agree with them.
You make a quality game that you believe in and that you think is brilliant, and make it the best of class... Star Wars proved a lot of cynics wrong about sci-fi in the '70s, and Lord of the Rings was a smashing success. Do a quality product, and people are going to think there's enough taste out there that you're going to find an audience.
I'd say that consistency and believability of the theme are probably more important than what the theme is.
MZ: Absolutely. I think there's internal consistency. I agree. It comes down to the quality and the integrity of your IP, more than which one you choose. And fashions will come and go.