When do we get the Seinfeld of video games? Why won't there be any major new gaming consoles? And just when will get video game technology implanted in our brains? At GDC Online in Austin, Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell predicted and expounded upon many things.
He opened the GDC's narrative summit with a wide-ranging talk that ranged from The Matrix to E-sports to Minecraft, to… man, to pretty much everything. (He also shared a fun anecdote about Steve Jobs, who was in his employ way back in the 70's).
On Storytelling: "The thing I want to talk about is: It was a dark and stormy night. There were problems. Big problems, in the castle. There were bad men in there. They were going to do bad things to damsels in distress. And a kitten. See? Now you know everything about telling a story. Or not.
On arcade machines in 1969:"They were basically mechanical slide projectors. They were solid state, relays and motors and gears. This was really clunky."
On Centipede: "What was Centipede the first of? It was the first game designed by a woman."
On The Matrix: "Clearly The Matrix was the ultimate video game—designed by a machine. Somewhat dystopian—clearly we want to be able to use this as the future of immersing ouselves into the world. If you can jack in using a good USB port, that may be the ultimate in body modifications."
On Neural-implanted gaming: "I actually think that there's a good probability that we can neural implants in 20 years. Be ready for the technology when it comes. I actually think parents are gonna have a little pushback on this, so be ready when that comes."
On cut-scenes: "The difference between watching movies and playing games is the difference between being a voyeur and being an actor. Being the actor says that you cannot anymore have the image or the fantasy of the screenwriter; you have to have the image of yourself. I think that there is a real issue between climbing into the action, being directed, and having all of this other fun."
On generating ideas in the bathroom: "Everybody who's had a shower has had a good idea. "
On using those specific ideas: "The question is what you do when you get out of the shower. It is the doers who make the difference. How many times have you heard "That was my idea!'? But no it wasn't. And idea is due to ownership. Ownership of an idea is something that you earn; it's not something that you get. Having an idea is not even the first step."
On making your games perfect: "It turns out that perfection kills you—you really don't want to be perfect. If you're perfect, your'e too slow. In the online world, particularly on cell phones, your ability to upgrade is huge. If you focus on perfection, it really slows you down, and you may be spending your time on a game that sucks."
On being a habitual convention-goer: "If you really want to be stimulated, go to a carpet manufacturers' conference."
On Minecraft:" Minecraft is damn good. I really like this game because it's so visually clunky. You can do so much with it. It's just brilliant."
On cloud gaming: "Cloud gaming is a really powerful idea. It starts to allow games to take on the characteristic of a cable channel. A cable channel, you can surf it. Right now you can't surf games. I think that cloud gaming is going to lead to a level of episodic gameplay. Like every Friday, a new episode is downloaded. If you think of Seinfeld of Friends, they have a series of episodes and they run scripts through them. We will find that games, if you build them like an engine and you start to run scenarios through them, I think there will be the equivalent of Seinfeld or Friends in the video gaming world in the next five to 10 years."
On the next generation of consoles: "I don't believe that there will be another major console. I think that the differentiation between what it would cost do do a PS4… or Nintendo… well, Nintendo is pretty crappy. But [these consoles]are so close to photorealism that it just doesn't matter. The competition between 'My photorealism is better than your photorealism.'
On social games: "Social games are still in their infancy. A lot of the metrics will not last. They are really too stupid to live. Those sorts of things tend to wear out. You find that, after a while, you can only plant so many crops, build so many buildings, without it getting boring. The social games are going to have to get better, or the churn will overtake them as time goes by."
On E-Sports: "There will be a cable channel devoted to people watching games being played by others. There will be a narrator, there will be the Howard Cosel of video games. In Europe it's not unknown to have 50,000 people show up for a LAN Party."
On Artificial intelligence: "A lot of people think that artificial intelligence is that which has not been programmed yet."
On failure: "Everyone here is going to make a really crappy game. I have made games where I say "God, this sucks."
On Atari, and the French: "Atari still has one of the most recognisable brands in the world. Even better than EA, ha ha ha. It's been a French brand for a while. That's been a problem. But this too, can be fixed."