Irrational Interviews, which has Bioshock creator Ken Levine talking shop with other creative people about the process of making art, be they video games movies or comic books, is easily my favourite podcast on the web. In the latest episode Ken speaks to Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox software, and gets into an interesting debate on the nature of scripted shooters. Are games becoming too scripted?
"My take is that it’s a spectrum," said Randy, "and that there are a lot of customers and all customers have varied tastes. I do think though that there’s a lowest common denominator thing. I watched a video on YouTube last night of a guy playing the new Call of Duty in the hardest difficulty without firing his weapon. He’s just basically running through.
"And you know what – there’s a lot of people that buy Call of Duty and have a great time – so who are we to judge? At the end of the day it doesn’t matter – what matters is if we’re entertained or not. If you have entertained your customer then you win."
Later, when discussing Gearbox's Brothers in Arms series, Pitchford discusses how they deliberately set out to create a point of difference between what they were doing, and what Infinity Ward were attempting to create.
"We did that purposely - almost as the kind of anti-Call of Duty/Medal of Honor formula. Now, measuring those things, you can see that lowest common denominator won with that Hollywood approach, but we still were able to be very successful."
Ken Levine then jumped in, with some comments on the importance of not simply imitating what is successful in the shooter genre.
"Call of Duty does that incredibly scripted thing," claimed Ken, "and also gets away with it and succeeds with it because it’s so remarkably successful – they do what they do really, really well.
"A lot of people say well, we’re just going to make another Call of Duty game and I think when you see that happening you have that problem," continued Ken, "I say this advisably because Medal of Honor was Call of Duty before Call of Duty was Call of Duty - but Medal of Honor didn’t really know its place in the world... I think it’s quite difficult to just walk in somebody else’s shoes and do what they did and be successful. If you’re going to do a scripted game – you’d better make the best fucking scripted game that ever got made."
Some interesting points being made - and it's interesting to hear top developers opine on the success of their direct competitors.
That's just a small segment of what was being discussed on this months Irrational Interviews. Ken and Randy also get into the nitty gritty of Duke Nukem Forever's development, the potential pitfalls of moving to the next generation of consoles too quickly, and a number of other topics. You can download the podcast here.
But what's your view - are games becoming too scripted? Have we had enough of the Call of Dutys and Uncharted 2s of the world?