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A Convoluted Conversation With Martin Hollis
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A Convoluted Conversation With Martin Hollis

April 27, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

It's a shame I think, that you can go into a record store -- well for the next couple of years, you'll be able to go into a record store --

MH: I hear you can still do this. [laughs]

You can buy any album, right? For the most part. You buy a 30-year-old album on CD, and it doesn't have to be that popular of an album. You can expect it. But you can't buy a year-old, two-year-old game, for the most part, unless it was such a hit that it was reprinted in a form like Sony's Greatest Hits. And it's just ridiculous, I think.

MH: It's all because everyone is focusing on technology and making that the most important think. It's publishers' fault, it's developers' fault, it's the consumers' fault, and everything... All this focus on technology.

You can just walk away from that and say, "Look, actually, technology is not the most important thing." Other things are more important than that. And then you have games actually having longevity.

If you think about books, the technology is just not that important. You know, it works, and there's an incredible expressive space for authors on that really simple technology. It's the same for the CD. Really, it's the same space as LP was.

Well, it's funny because it's not only that I can read books from before I was born, but I want to read books from before I was born because they have something to say. It's very hard for me to play a game from before I was born since I came out the same year as the Atari 2600. So, it's possible, but not easy.

MH: Maybe they'll get there with Virtual Console.

But at the same time, it is technology-driven to an extent that I'm not so sure that I do want to play a game from the '70s.

MH: Yeah, maybe it does really suck.

I do want to play NES games, which the Virtual Console offers.

MH: Yeah, me too.

AK: Yeah, I mean, it's growing pains, I think. If you look at early movies, when movies first came out, I don't know if you'd really enjoy watching those movies.

MH: So, I'm prepared to watched Nosferatu, but it is kind of work. It's like labor. And then you can say you've seen it.

So, maybe that's like 2600, and maybe NES. For some people, maybe SNES. But then like N64 maybe, that's like color, and they've got the conventions sorted out, and it's pretty much comprehensible. I don't know, but I think that's how it's going to work out. Maybe pixels will be like our black and white, silent.

[Christian completes the first day's worth of challenges.]

MH: How long did that take him? Like 10 minutes?

AK: Yeah.

MH: That was supposed to take ordinary people like 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes.

Well, you know.

MH: I know how it is.

I'm the person who played Animal Crossing like it's a game. I played it every day for like three hours and killed it in a month.

MH: You can't do that with this game.

But it's just funny. This is a theme that's been emerging out of GDC for me, the distinction between hardcore and casual.

MH: This is not hardcore.

Right, but it's sort of an artificial distinction, right? It's forced, and it's not that informative, honestly. It's overly simplified.

MH: Hideously. So, we got a bit more terminology. We think this is like a "new core" game, which means, like, kids who don't call themselves "gamers", although they play a heck of a lot of games.

These terms are somewhat valueless, but you still do, as a developer, absolutely need to identify and describe an audience.

MH: You need to try to, but in the end, you do fail. You try to not please everyone, but you're still, it's like, most people. So, I do hope this game, although we've got a target --  we've got a middle target, we've got an outer target, and we've got an optimistic, nearly everyone target.

Are all of these characters... They're not procedural in any way, are they?

MH: Well, the hair is procedural, because it's like a tree. It's like a procedural tree.

But like the haircuts are obviously designed.

MH: They are obviously designed.

The characters' faces and stuff...

MH: That's all designed, yeah. So, you know, the important part for us is the gameplay of the actual cutting, right? This is a game that has procedural trees. You know, a lot of games have procedural trees, from like SpeedTree or whatever.

It's just scenery, and it's irrelevant really. But this game, you actually touch the procedural trees. Where they are makes a difference. So, you have to pay attention.

Yeah, it all falls apart if you hit the wrong branch, right?

MH: Yeah, if you cut, like, down at the bottom there, you can wreak havoc. So, what people do is they'll cut a perfect cut, and then they'll get around to the bottom, and it's like, snip, "Oh no!" It's hilarious when it happens to someone else.

Yeah, in the context of playing it socially -- it's interesting because as far back as when I was a kid, what dissatisfied parents is that the kids would go hide and play video games.

MH: They'd like go into this little world.

And there was no interaction there. I tried to get my dad interested in games, but he couldn't relate to them.

MH: One of our goals with this game is it's supposed to relate to everyone, even the people who completely insist that they don't like games and that they don't want to go there.

It's more inviting and neutral, is the way to put it -- thematically neutral.

MH: It's not about killing people as fast as you can possibly can.

But it's also not about... a lot of the casual games I think pander to a specific audience. It's not about giant pink wedding cakes either. It's not about killing zombies; it's not about giant pink wedding cakes.

MH: We very much wanted... Like hardcore people who are open minded, they can enjoy this game. We believe that. So, the other thing is we hope it's like a Nintendo-core game, so people who played Zelda II, we really hope they can enjoy this too, on their own or with their friends or with their family.

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