Lionhead On The New Language of Games

Lionhead On The New Language of Games

IMG_3220.JPGThere is a distinct contradiction in Lionhead at the moment. Because there is not one gaming company in the world right now studying Hollywood with greater scrutiny. Yet their goal is to find the unique language of videogames.

Peter Molyneux could not attend his keynote today titled, “Life, Love and Death: Drama & Story Experience in Video Games.” So instead, Staging Designer Georg Backer presented Lionhead’s thesis on how games need to change. What followed were somewhat classic Lionhead production examples—assets must change over time to tell the story (from your character, to things around you).

Backer explained that their Fable 2 dog and one-button combat system are both, hopefully, all part of games finding their unique voice, learning how they can share narrative as easily any other format. Because ultimately, Lionhead sees families talking over dinner about a movie they just saw, a book they just read and, without a beat, the game they’ve been playing.

Now all that is well and good, but it’s their development process that’s so baffling. While in search of this unique voice—something that could be a decade off they are quick to admit—Lionhead is waist-deep in Hollywood school: video editors advise better camera cuts in their combat system, and sword masters teach camera friendly movie combat.

And it’s not that Lionhead partakes in interdisciplinary studies that so confounding, but that they talk about their “unique voice” and the tricks of Hollywood in a completely intermixed fashion.

The presentation was a developer’s call to arms, but it was also a simultaneous cadence of retreat—instructions to regroup and learn from our Hollywood masters.

Less cynically, I think this is the message that even Lionhead has not yet said clearly and most game developers are afraid to admit:

Games, despite how often they emulate film’s cliches, fall far short of the movie industry’s time-tempered production methods. So games must first play a bit of catch-up before we can really begin the discussion of profound interactive narrative technique.

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