This morning at the GC Developers Conference, a panel of game developers—Don Daglow from Stormfront Studios, Mike Capps from Epic Games, Julian Eggebrecht from Factor 5, and George Backer from Lionhead Studios—spoke on the subject of “top selling games” and the methods and philosophies involved in designing them. When asked how influential the enthusiast press and the forum dwelling hardcore were on the final outcome of their games, the developers were surprisingly frank about the impact both groups truly had.
Capps was first to respond, saying “We absolutely love the press. Everything they say we immediately put into our game.” Joking, of course, but it’s actually not that far from the truth.With the press, Capps revealed that they’ll actively solicit their feedback because “the press knows games and they know what’s gonna sell” with proposed changes being incorporated as late as six weeks before ship date.
Touching on the hardcore Unreal Tournament userbase, Capps revealed that the team at Epic read forums “all the time”, saying “We take [their complaints]seriously because we need to keep those guys happy because they’re the ones who are going to sell it to another one and a half million users who aren’t so hardcore.”
Backer theorised that the games industry has evolved faster than its Hollywood counterpart because of this interaction with its users.
Lair developer Eggebrecht suggested that developers take those suggestions from hardcore users “with a grain of salt” citing Factor 5’s inference that the hardcore “seem to somehow resent the idea that motion control is the next evolution, or one of the evolutions, where video games will go.” With the hardcore gamer “bashing in our heads” over the use of the SIXAXIS motion detection as the primary control method for the game’s dragon flight, it might seem like Eggebrecht ignored player feedback.
Not so. The team did make motion control concessions based on vocal, negative opinions from the PLAYSTATION 3 game’s Tokyo Game Show demo. Ripping out the motion control for on-foot segments, Eggebrecht called the earlier control scheme “quite frankly, horrible in hindsight” and that listening to hardcore opinions can often be “a blessing and a curse.”
And while some game developers may have a bitter taste left in their mouths by a scathing preview or review of a game, Eggebrecht said “The press isn’t the enemy. If anybody thinks the press is the enemy, that’s stupid. These guys are usually as passionate, if not more so, than you yourself are so work with them.”