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The Illusions We Make: Gearbox's Randy Pitchford
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The Illusions We Make: Gearbox's Randy Pitchford

October 12, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

BS: Right. To the Call of Duty 4 example, the way I tend to play games is that as soon I tend to get a little bored, I try to break stuff and get out of the world. But I feel as though there's no point in that. It's like, "Well, pretty much what they're trying to get me to do, it seems like a fun thing that I actually want to do, so I'm going to do that."

RP: They have an interesting problem, because one of the reasons they're able to do that is because they're always able to keep the pressure up -- because they cheat. Unless you move forward and cross the trigger, they're going to keep spawning enemies and driving them at you.

But because we've played so many Call of Duty games, we've all figured it out. And so we're starting to see -- like when Neo saw the Matrix instead of seeing the people -- now we've figured out that they're cheating. I think that in Call of Duty 4, if I stay in the same place for too long, they'll actually spawn a grenade at my feet. No enemy threw it there. They'll spawn a grenade to make me move out of the way.

BS: [laughs] That's happened to me, but I never...

RP: You can't put it together. But people are figuring it out. And now they have a problem because the gamers are saying, "Hey, dude. We hate monster spawning." And the designer knows, "No you don't. You love it. That's why we're engaging you." But now the designer knows that you're onto him, so he's like, "Fuck, I need to come up with a new trick."

I used to be a professional magician. A magician can create wonder by creating a set of logic, and then proving that the logic is impossible and false. Now if I repeat the same trick over and over again, as long as it's still surprising, it's fine. I've got you. But as soon as you start understanding how the trick works, you get bored and you lose interest. So, I've got to create a new trick. I've got to hit you with new magic.

So, the Call of Duty guys have an interesting challenge there. They have to solve that, because we are starting to understand that. The customers are starting to understand how their game design actually works. And once we see through it, it loses some of its charm.

I've seen some things -- I haven't played the game yet -- in some of the interviews they've done with the new Modern Warfare that [suggest] they understand that. They're making some promises there. I'm curious to see if they've adapted to that at all or if they've done it in a way that helps their game because the games are brilliant. They're fun. They're just fun rides. I like them, so we want them to keep being able to do that.

BS: The magic comparison is interesting. The creation of an illusion could certainly be analogous...

RP: It's the same business. It's entertainment. It's smoke and mirrors. These universes don't exist. They're virtual, but we want to immerse you in them. So, a lot of the same skills apply. Misdirection, too. We'll like attract your attention and then surprise you with something.

This is another example: id's starting to be made fun of for the monster closet, like the idea of here's a monster that was hiding in this closet. The closet opens, and a monster pops out.

Back in the day, it was really great. I remember Quake 1, I think it was the second map where these little cubes come out. There was this doorway. These little cubes come out of the ground, and you approach it, and they float in the air. You plug into these two empty slots, and you're watching this happen, and you're just like, "Okay. I don't know what this means. I'm thinking that's going to make the door open."

And while you're watching this, they have a monster closet behind me open up, and one of those little dog guys jumps out and like just "Rrargh!" You jump and you turn around, like, "Oh shit! Oh shit!" It's misdirection. They got me. Well, because we've seen that trick so many times, we're starting to see through it, and we go, "Ah, monster closet. Busted." It's the same thing -- it's like, "Ha ha, you're palming the card" to the magician. "Ha ha, I got you. You're not fooling me anymore." So, we got to come up with new tricks.

[Minor Batman: Arkham Asylum Spoiler] BS: The monster closet thing is funny because I'm playing the Batman game right now, Arkham Asylum. That kind of fucked me up because they did this thing where they make the screen have some fuzz crap across it and makes it look like it's frozen.

But that is also an error that happened to me twice while playing Fallout 3. I was just like, "Fuck, my Xbox is red-ringing." Then a week later this happens in the game. I'm like, "Jesus Christ, don't make it look that real!"

RP: Well, they affected you, though.

BS: It made me mad.

RP: For a few seconds, you had a feeling, and then it goes away once they show you that they were tricking you. If you didn't like that feeling, then you resent them for giving you that feeling.

BS: I do, a little bit, yes.

RP: Some customers, when they have that feeling, they like the fact that something artificial was able to change them. And magic works that way, too. Everyone knows magic is not real. Or at least every adult knows it's all bullshit. But if I'm able to convince you that something impossible has happened and you know that's impossible, some people just have a hard time dealing with it. So, it's the same thing.

BS: For some people, there's wonder and "How did he do that?"

RP: And they're comfortable. I don't know how that happened, and I know that that's a trick, but the fact that that fooled me is interesting. Other people hate to be fooled. It's like, "Dude, you bastard. Why did you fool me?" You have to be able to deal with that, too. If you can entertain both customers with the same trick...

For me, when I was a magician, I had to develop my routines in such a way so that the spectators that are totally comfortable with going along the ride with me, they're easy. But the guys that aren't, you have to develop your routine in a way where you can engage them and give them entertainment as well. That's the challenge of the artist, the creator, the entertainer.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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