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Why today's demanding players inhibit innovation
Why today's demanding players inhibit innovation
August 13, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

August 13, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
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    38 comments
More: Console/PC, Design, Business/Marketing



"One of the things I see that's different [today] is that our audience expects perfection."
- Ubisoft Toronto managing director and Assassin's Creed veteran Jade Raymond discusses the modern challenges facing game developers in a new interview with Official Xbox Magazine.

As the video game industry has grown, Raymond's found that players have become increasingly picky, and developers need to strive for flawless, immaculate products if they hope to answer their demands. The trade-off, however, is that reaching for perfection makes you less able to take creative risks.

"Before, there were only, say, two million people playing games -- they were real fans and they were playing every game. They were willing to forgive bugs, and try things that weren't as much fun because they were different. Now, there are 30 million people buying and they only buy the top five," she says.

"It's not very forgiving. It does limit innovation, because if something isn't working as you get towards shipping, you have to cut it or revert [back to] what you know does work."


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Comments


Tynan Sylvester
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I like to think that those two million deeply interested players are still there - we've just added 28 million more who only play the big hits.

Maria Jayne
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The problem is that the suits see the 28 million and say "screw the 2m". This is why we can't have nice things.

Joe Morton
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'The suits'?

Vincent Hyne
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Publishers.

Duvelle Jones
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It's not a publisher problem is a general business one. Simply put, your concerns differ when you are serving the smaller number of players, and any business that I know will general lean towards the higher number of players to market to make more money.

If you look, there a companies out there that see things in terms of a small number of gamers to please, and with those adjusted expectations ("Look we don't want to sell millions, if we pull 10,000 units in a month, then we are somewhere") and teams sizes. They survive.

Michael DeFazio
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perceptions can be deceiving-- i think what she may be referring to is a small but extremely vocal minority of players that demand flawlessness...(and insist they speak for the majority) meanwhile there are a large amount of players are well satisfied and would prize innovation.

a good example would be the "dark souls to pc" discussions on neogaf:
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=486141
... i scratch my head at the idea that some extremely vocal players are upset that from is bringing the game (warts and all) to the pc with additional content, for a reduced price... (some people are downright outraged). especially when the alternative is : no port, hence pc players are left with no option to experience a very special game.

from has been absolutely honest from day 1 that they had no experience with pc games, and they decided to port the game (and add content) because of the community outcry for it... shortly after people gave their impressions of the game (gfwl, locked framerate, reduced resolution) the pitchforks came out and (what appears to be the same community who asked for the game) people professed that they had no interest because they wanted the port to be "better than the ps3/xbox 360 versions"/ optimized for pc.

...if there is anything that can be learned its that you probably shouldn't listen to "the internet's opinion", because generally it's not representative of the majority of player's opinion.

Gern Blanston
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I agree, and I also see zero correlation between gamers' demands/complaints and a lack of innovation on the parts of developers. These demands pertain to games/IPs that already exist, so how does that stop development teams from creating new and unique gaming experiences? I think this is a complete cop-out, not unlike when Reggie Fils-Aime blamed gamers 'insatiable appetite' for their failure to deliver the goods at E3. These suits need to stop making excuses for failures and putting it on the heads of all the gamers that support their respective businesses.

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Jack Matthewson
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I really didn't understand the outcry behind gfwl. Fallout 3 and DoW2 had it and they could both be considered successes. There's a certain subset of videogame fans who love the schadenfreude that goes along with large projects failing, especially if they "called it" before everyone else. I bet the same guys who hate on gfwl are the same ones who reacted with glee with the news that SWTOR was going free to play.

Rafael Posnik
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You can't call "public/target-audience modeling" innovative denial...

Michael Joseph
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lol. it's a bit of backwards logic to be sure but it's just one quote. I tend to hear it more as an expression of some frustration/fear/pressure/exasperation. AAA project cycles are tough and expectations are always high both within and without.

Mike Kanarek
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Is this quote a joke? Plenty of games publish at far less than -perfect- condition and do quite well. If your "audience expects perfection" where do all of those Skyrim fans who are willing to look past large numbers of bugs come from?

Matt Robb
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Agreed. I've yet to see the "perfection" that is mentioned in this quote.

Evan Combs
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+1 for bringing up Skyrim, Bethesda games are notoriously flawed in many ways, yet they tend to be some of the best selling games around.

Eric Adams
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Agreed, I loved Fallout 3 and dealt with the bugs and aggravations because of the compelling design.

Dave Smith
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And elder scroll games are notoriously lacking in innovation as well. Her point is still valid IMO

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Carlos Rocha
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Perfection is not "bug free", it's perfection in the "kind" of experience that people are used to, just polished. Even Assassin's Creed has bugs, that doesn't matter, it's the experience people want, that has been improving over the gears, even if it just adds some polish.

It's more about history, people are willing to buy new things at the start of a console cycle, but at this point in the cycle people want that kind of "perfection".

Aaron Fowler
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Players are able to look over those bugs, because the experience is "more perfected" than many games out there.

Josh Griffiths
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Sounds like nothing more than excuses to me. This is coming from the design lead of Assassin's Creed, basically the half baked sci-fi version of the yearly released Call of Duty.

wes bogdan
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Perhaps my taste's are more broad than the cod-ac:liberation croud as ,while those are great games i respect rayman origin,3d dot game ,blue dragon,the last story,xenoblade a whole lot more because while running with a successful series does have challenges creating a whole new universe is perhaps more challenging as not everyone gets a second chance as brutal legonds has shown.

I hunt down overlooked gems and just recently found pure from black rock at a closout sale new. It's too bad more gamers don't value games like valkyria chronicles,vanquesed or studio ghlibli's ps3 effort for next jan 22 13.

Too many gamers are simply playing what they've always played without deviation and with that they'll continue missing the hidden gems that any self respecting gamer shouldn't miss.

wes bogdan
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Btw testing playstation all stars dev beta and it's great.
when it loads a level shows a ds3 but i wonder if a sf4 stick would work as well or better for the game?

Paul Andrew Mcgee
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I think what audiences are guilty of demanding, if unknowingly, is more of what they know, because what else can they demand? Whether that means yet another sequel to an established franchise or something within familiar genre conventions this usually only leads to diminishing returns. AAA developers do try to make tentative innovative steps every so often but the future financial and creative health of the industry depends on those people who are a bit more brave and have a bit more vision to give audiences what they didn't know they wanted. Even Nintendo seems particularly unadventurous lately.

Developers used to take new hardware as an opportunity for new ideas, so I wonder what effect this long cycle has had and as the idea of console generations gets less important how the AAA industry can overcome stagnation in the longterm. I'm just happy there's been a mini-renaissance over the last 4 years in downloadable games and mobile for the micro studio.

Ian Uniacke
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I think the 3ds has had some great games from nintendo, but not necessarily the games in the store. (which have also been pretty good). But that's a good example because Nintendo take risks in small downloadable games that they can afford to fail so when they bring along Super Mario Pushmo Edition it can be a big hit because they already verified that people like that gameplay.

Bob Johnson
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Wow imagine consumers not wanting buggy games. Damn them.

And as far as I know console games were more polished a few generations ago. Not more buggy.

Also I always felt the obssessive gamer was the most demanding. Like the ones crying for a new ME ending. I don't think that was the mainstream gamer.

And I thought the budgets and time to market without a corresponding increase in sales were the bigger reason games take less risks today.

wes bogdan
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Well back on ps2,xbox and gcn/wii you'd get your game there wasn't a xbla or psn and nintendo called online a fad on gcn ..great call on that one...and rip it open put it in press start and be playing whatever INSTANTLY.

Compare that with today where when i get darksiders 2 lmtd ed i'll rip it open put it in and wait for it to install.......then check and find a patch and 10 minutes or later depending on if i must log into ubi,ea or someone else's network and enter a online pass wee now 15 minutes after all that crap is done i can finally get into the game which sometimes wiskes me away to buy blacked out content already on the disc to keep the sale going and of course i can't simply play online because i don't have all the nessacary content so now 45 minutes in i can FINALLY press start to play but wait if you prefer inverted or check the options as default controls always suck now we've been @ it for 60 minutes and are finally able to have our hand held in a manditory tutorial even if it's a sequel and not our first rodio it's now 2 hours in and gameplay started out broken-most gameplay is off and slowly over the next few hours i'll get a working game for my $60 purchase.

WOW I have to say i never expected all these problems some crept in from pc land in the last gen ever in my consoles.
Sure they do more and look better plus trophies and achievements but WOW i can't wait to see how we're going to be screwed on the next wave perhaps an always on connection to play single player in every game woo-hoo !!

Nate Anonymous
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Friggin entitled gamers want perfection AND innovation. Sheesh. They act like $60 (or $80 after DLC) is a lot of money or something...

The only way that statement could have been more of a debacle is if it had come from EA.

Iulian Mocanu
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I would agree with her, except for the fact that DayZ is a horrible mess which over a million people enjoy and it probably won't stop at 2 million.
People are willing to forgive bugs if the other things in the game are actually fun, entertaining or innovative. Not "innovative" as in "we made the character black this time and there's five new weapons", but actual innovation, the kind you really don't see from larger studios that have first of all an obligation to their shareholders.

Jed Hubic
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She's totally right. When you are slamming out sequels and games no one truly really wants, you can't have bugs or else you're skewered.

...also Ubisoft's DRM...they are just trying so hard to please the players...right?.

I'd like to hear more and more from little guys that make a decent living off smaller games rather than read opinions of those that are part of 200 people projects where success/failure factors are beyond a couple sentences and hard to define. All these Jade Raymond, Peter Molyneux, etc quotes start to offer nothing at all anymore. The upside I guess are the GDC talks from guys like Cerny that go quite in depth.

Not trying to rip on anyone but really...I don't post often but I can't help but wish there was a bit more digging from the more independent guys or at least some smaller teams. I'm probably beyond the point of making sense now. Good day.

wes bogdan
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Yes there was no way to "extend" a game and when you beat it that was it on the previous gen but @ least games were in the can before they were out the door imagine if avatar or the latest hottest movie shipped as unfinished as todays games are not exactly ideal.

Sure before things that didn't make your game were saved in a file for the sequel due to time or money however while these can now be added to give games legs and keep it around longer before a sequel @ least we had finished games upon release. Sure games like blaster master are stuck with their bugs and now we can endlessly patch games but we also ship in an unfinished state sometimes a barly playable state like duke forever.

I hope it gets better with the next gen and finished games again ship no day 1 patch/dlc required though what happens to all our current content like the digital games/dlc when ps4 or xbox next finally arrive?!!

I doubt the general public let alone the core gamers will be pleased if 360/ps3 don't work on the new systems and what about the ton of digital games will we really need to re download them or simply stream them?

Before we're done with a game and it's dlc we might've paid upwards of $150 with all the skins,map packs and weapons/gear and while some dlc is good extending the game with new content trying to black content out so i must unlock what i already own is poor design.

Timothy Ryan
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It comes down to the theme. If you make a modern combat shooter, it is going to be photo-realistic. The expectation for perfection is set and players might not be artists but they'll know if something doesn't look or feel right. (Modern Warfare)

If you want a cartoony, comedic shooter, it does not need to be nearly as perfect, and you can focus on fun and innovation. (Team Fortress)

Is one theme more popular than the other? Clearly with the numbers of MW3, it's photo-realistic perfection. Yet the drive for perfection can leave a bloody trail of failed attempts and little room for innovation (as she rightly alludes to).

Terry Matthes
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Blizzard makes people wait and they put a lot of work into their titles and don't give concrete release dates and in turn they are rewarded by good sales numbers, loyal fans and "yes" there games have bugs.

It seems to me that most developers do the exact opposite by trying to deliver the next iteration of a title on a near yearly basis to satisfy sales numbers (not fans) and then get confused by poor sales and public tongue lashings from gamers. Developers in the later scenario lack confidence in their title, but to be honest who wouldn't? Trying to innovate on a major title with a 12 month turn around is probably a nightmare. I feel that there is no innovation because after the original title there is no time spent on pre production.

If you listen to people like Richard Lemarchand (Naughty Dog Lead Designer), "Pre production should be done by a very core group of senior developers, really the best people you have at your company". How many studios actually spend months just playing around with some great ideas and a core team? With series like Assasin's Creed and Call of Duty you can see, and feel that this crucial time isn't being spent. There's just not enough time given the turn around of these titles. The worst part about this is that this is where innovation comes from.

Your games aren't going to get better by measuring quality in terms of sales. You're games are going to get better by putting in sheltered development time where talented people are given a chance to express their ideas and flesh them out without feeling like they are under then gun to ship the title. Why do you have a shipping date set up when you are still trying to flesh out gameplay mechanics? It all comes down to the need for excessive profit muddling your entire development process.

Carlos Rocha
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Even if most people don't like it she's absolutely right. Gears of War 3 is the best example I can think of. The game is flawless, and it's really fun, but it's a game from a previous generation. It has no innovation at all. I love the game, but it's not very creative.

Papo & yo looks like an amazing game, and everybody complains about square and it's dependance on dying franchises, but The world ends with you didn't sell nearly as much as it should being an incredibly creative and original game.

How many "new" innovative games do people buy, not classics. Hopefully, people will start buying more different games and complaining less.

Tyler Shogren
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The problem is not the players, although it's easy to see why a publisher would want to try to blame a group that can't defend themselves.

There was never a group that was "playing every game". At least not since the early 80s. People put up with bugs because that was the state of the art and there was less access to online reviews disclosing them.

Limiting innovation and creativity is a business decision. When a publisher decides to pull the trigger and ship an unfinished product to meet investor expectations, that is not a player-related problem. When players don't want to buy these half-baked products (which are many), it is not a player-related problem, contrary to the above claims.

What the 28 million demand is viral marketing, blatantly. No AAA title in the last eight years has even attempted creative innovation, so it's hard to see how one can make claims about it.

Terry Matthes
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"Limiting innovation and creativity is a business decision"

That's bang on. I think a better article title would read...
"Passing The Buck On Innovation"

Dave Scheele
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Ms. Raymond's comment reminds me of the situation we found ourselves in back in the mid-90's when creating a 3D fighting game on the PSX. We experimented with and in the end modified some "core" aspects of fight games (e.g. camera mechanics) in an attempt to innovate, but got a mostly negative reaction for it. People were very loyal to what they considered to be the "correct" way to implement a fight game, and deviation from that was not welcomed. The lesson from all of that is to pace your innovation to match your players expectations, and not shake things up too quickly. Also, be darn sure that those innovations are polished to perfection because any glitch they have will stand out much more due to the increased scrutiny !

John Trauger
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Minecraft.

Terry Matthes
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Minecraft had no prior expectations so I don't think it's a good example.


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