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A Human Work: Denis Dyack On What Games Need
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A Human Work: Denis Dyack On What Games Need

March 10, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Yeah. I've been finding recently that the best narrative experiences I've had in games, several of them came in the last year. But a lot of them were not -- they didn't feel overly written. It was just so well integrated into the design of it -- I think as it should be -- it was not entirely spoken, it was communicated through the universe.

DD: Yep. I agree. Well, what's one of the first big rules of movies? It's that if you have voice-over, there's something wrong with my script, because what you're explaining to people, you should be able to in visuals and cinematography.

And we talked about, at Austin GDC, about BioShock's approach. Fantastic approach, they used the medium really well, and they took some sort-of '50s radio, War of the Worlds approach, and it worked really well. And I was just listening to the talk today on story, that was the ad hoc talk, that was my favorite one at the conference so far.

Like you were saying, the thing about superfluous characters, and stuff: There's so much superfluous stuff in games. It seems like things should be better planned, story-wise. They're constantly introducing new characters, instead of figuring out ways to make it simple and solid.

I don't know; I think some of it is ambition, maybe? And some of it is just not knowing how to create stories, and trying to emulate stories that are really sweeping and complex, but they're not really. I mean, you think they are, because they have all these nuances, but nuance and complexity are very different.

DD: I agree with that. And what I would say -- not to say that we have the only answer, or anything, but -- what I've noticed inherently, and it's starting to change, is that processes that we can learn from Hollywood are very good. Did you ever notice that there's a distinct lack of position in video games? We do it a lot at Silicon Knights, and there's just a few other companies that are doing it. But how many directors do you see?

And our philosophy: We have several directors on a project, and with engagement theory, we've got content, and story, artwork, game design, technology, and audio. We have five directors. Plus my role on Too Human is as a director.

But how many times do you say, "Oh, this person's the creative director," but there's no overarching director. That person who's responsible for that game's vision, from when you first started out, to the end. And so many times, in our industry, do people pitch a product or pitch an idea, and by the time they start and the time they get to the end, they don't resemble each other. That's a fundamental flaw in the process. That means something's wrong, and I think one of the things is lack of directors.

You know, if someone says they're the lead designer, that's not director. If someone says, you know, "I'm the lead technology person," or, "I'm a lead programmer, and I have a lot of influence over game design," that's great. But they're not the director either. And you need someone to take responsibility for that, to carry it from the beginning to the end, and I would like to see more of that in our industry, actually.

It started off being very producer-driven, and I think Electronic Arts' model has been very heavily producer-driven, but I think it really needs to change past that. There is a need for producers, for sure: we need to keep on the schedules, we need to make sure that the budgets are intact, and as Ken Levine said, we have fiduciary duties to make sure that we're on time and on budget as best as we can.

But my role as a director is to make sure that the creative vision stays on track to the end. And I have producers and executive producers say, "Hey! Keep in line!" but I'm always like, "What can I do to make this game the best that I can, and keep it on that vision?" And when the game is all said and done, I would like to do something at some point with you.

After you play Too Human, and it's all done, I'll give you -- and I can't do it before, because there are too many spoilers, but -- there's a one page sheet that we did, when we first started project, before we did any of that; and some of the dates are wrong, but beyond that, it's pretty accurate to what our vision is.

And I think that needs to happen more often in our industry. Not this sort of continuous grind and churn. I know the process is iterative, but the content flow direction from beginning to end does not need to be.


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