feels that games don't miss actual structure, but sometimes lack
the correct interplay between gameplay, structure, and intensity.
far as narrative structure, games are often rigidly structured;
I don't think lack of structure is a problem at all. What's lacking
is the emotional impact that usually accompanies structural highpoints
or turning points in more traditional narratives. In most games,
the feeling of finally achieving your goal is one of relief rather
than elation or insight; the climax often merely marks a break from
increasing frustration. I wish most games aimed higher than that.
As an example of one game that got it brilliantly right, I'll point
at Ico, where the narrative structure, the gameplay, and the emotional
impact were all seamlessly fused into one. Near the end of the game
there is a moment where the world comes apart and you nearly fall
-- but you're caught. It was an incredibly poignant moment, conveyed
through the game mechanics, the animations, a reversal in the storyline,
everything all at once. This was a significant event not only for
that game, but for the art of game design. And that was just one
of several all-time-high moments in Ico."
although some claim technological or logistical limitations stop
games in general from advancing, he isn't so sure.
now, I can see limits on the Half-Life style of game (our
limitations are important elements of the design), but I don't see
any limitations at all for games in general. It seems to me that
if you decided that storytelling was going to be the most important
element of your game, you could design a particular type of game
to support that design decision. I might as well add, that's not
a game I can imagine wanting to play. Old Man Murray's Erik put
it well: 'story lovers should just accept the fact that non-interactive
media such as books, television, movies, and, in case all of those
somehow disappear, plays, have stories and dialogue pretty much
covered. Games are something else altogether. They require a new
and as-yet-unformed way of creative thinking.'"
asked what advice he'd give to someone wanting to break into the
games industry, Marc, like many of his peers, is most keen on wide-ranging
skills and, most of all, practical experience.
best designers I've worked with are well-rounded in terms of their
background, and easy-going in terms of personality. They genuinely
enjoy collaborating rather than pushing some agenda that feeds their
ego. All our best designs are the result of collaboration.
the first few years I was working on games, when a young writer
asked me for this piece of advice, I would tend to encourage them
to hone their skills in the traditional print publications, since
the magazines are limited markets and tough to crack, and will help
you develop a thick skin for rejection and criticism while you're
learning your craft. However, recently I've begun to feel that there's
no reason one couldn't develop as a writer and have a career exclusively
in the game industry, in much the same way that good screenwriters
don't necessarily spend any time writing novels or short stories.
This is assuming you believe you can express everything you might
wish to express as a writer through the medium of games, which is
a far-fetched assumption. Still, theoretically, you could have a
rewarding game writing career without ever writing for print.
I think the mod-design community could serve as a proving ground
for game writers, much as it currently serves that purpose for programmers,
artists and other designers. I would recommend fledgling game writers
seek out a gang of like-minded modders, and offer his or her services.
That's basically what I did."
asked what games and developers he sees that impress him, he displays
an interesting slant towards stylish (and sometimes spooky) console
products -- not the PC-based shooters that Half-Life was
confess that I tend to seek out games that are very different from
the projects I'm working on, and perhaps this is the reason that
I tend to avoid science fiction and realistic games. I have spent
most of my gaming time on the Gamecube and Playstation 2 in the
last year or so. I'm looking forward to whatever comes next from
the creators of Ico and Fatal Frame. I anxiously await
Thief 3. And I am hoping that the follow-up to The Wind
Waker will be the Gamecube equivalent of Majora's Mask--something
incredibly elaborate and strange."
in exploring the spooky, almost mythical atmosphere that games such
as Ico convey, conversation turned to why famed occult author HP
Lovecraft and his Cthulhu-based
creations have such an odd and pervasive influence in FPS games.
There are particular influences in id software's output, partly
because Sandy Petersen (one of id's former level designers) designed
the Call Of Cthulhu paper RPG, plus Marc's Lovecraft-ian
company history in the 'id Anthology' PC box-set, and Half-Life's
nods to the eldritch horror. Laidlaw has an interesting theory about
all of this.
geek culture is pervasive, and Lovecraft was the ultimate geek.
That explains some of the affinity. If you look at his correspondence
and his involvement in the amateur press of his day, HP Lovecraft
makes Dr. Derek Smart look like Silent Cal. The old-timey print
journals of debate and discussion, dependent on paper and ink and
the U.S. mails, would have given the Slashdot forums a run for their
money. Still, I marvel at the life extension Lovecraft has received
as a result of being picked up by the RPG community (you can thank
the inimitable Sandy Petersen for that). When you overlap this with
the influx of young writers who are continually discovering and
imitating Lovecraft, it seems pretty certain that the geek obsession
with things Cthulhuvian is not going to fade any time soon. My obsession
with HP Lovecraft peaked when I was about 15 years old, back when
(except for my best friend and a handful of pre-email penpals) I
felt I was pretty much the only one in the world who'd ever heard
of him. So now I consider myself an old Lovecraft hand, and I enjoy
having stewed on the subject long enough to act like a cranky authority
Marc is understandably guarded when it comes to Half-Life 2's
imminent release, refusing to be drawn on what the long-awaited
sequel will end up meaning to the gaming public before he hears
it himself from them.
don't want to try to sum up any conclusions about what we will accomplish
with Half-Life 2 until it's all done and we've had some time
for it to sink in. I didn't have any perspective on Half-Life
itself until I had a chance to see how the finished product resonated
with our fans. It's only half what you put into it; the other half
is what people get out of it."
does, however, offer some choice teasers from his dialog for the
sequel by way of consolation and a fitting conclusion.
a line I cut: 'When you think of the creatures we've driven to extinction
without a second thought, aren't you grateful the Combine isn't
just another one-dimensional superpredator like…well, like
one I haven't cut yet: 'What did I expect from the man who brought
civilization to a screeching halt?'"