Creative Assembly: 70% Of Games ‘Aren’t Good Enough’

Creative Assembly: 70% Of Games ‘Aren’t Good Enough’
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Do developers spend enough time prototyping new design ideas? I’m not a developer, so I’m probably not the best placed person to answer that question, but Renaud Charpentier, lead designer on Total War Battles: Shogun believes that major studios don’t do enough experimentation in the early stages of development, which results in video games that function well, but don’t inspire.

“When you look at the market, probably 20 to 30 per cent of the games are confident, and maybe 60 to 70 per cent are not good enough,” he told Edge.

“Usually, they run. Most of them don’t crash – most are competent technically. Most of them look okay or even good, but they play like shit.”

Not enough time, claims Charpentier, is being spent in the early stage of design, precisely hammering out what is fun about the game.

“Their biggest risk is not on the tech, not on the art, it’s on the design,” he said. “You have to front-load that: it has to drive many of the other decisions.

“We can’t keep releasing games that anyone can tell are not interesting to play after 30 minutes when 20 or 30 people spent two years working on them. It doesn’t make any sense.”

It’s hard to make generalisations, especially as someone writing from a non-development perspective, but I would agree that a majority of the games I play nowadays feel familiar. As through the core is borrowed, but the rest is built from scratch.

That’s just my view. It’s wrong to separate the different aspects of game creation, I’ve always found it better to enjoy video games as a complete whole thing, but primarily I play for the core fun of the mechanics. That’s what generally compels me — and I find that lacking in many modern games.


Creative Assembly: “70 per cent of games aren’t good enough” [Edge]


  • Personally I think there’s room for both. We don’t demand that each new film or novel should contain an entirely new structure, a good hero’s quest or romance plot can be re-written a million times over and we still seem to get a kick out of it.

    That said, if a game IS going to ‘borrow the core’ as you say, then it had better provide something else fresh and new. To maintain the film analogy, a hero’s quest or romance needs to really bring some interesting characters, an interesting setting, or something unique in the details to give us something new to experience. The same can be said for videogames.

    For example, there’s a really great core to DayZ, the short-term persistent character that’s not quite an MMO toon, but longer-lived than a COD character. Surviving, building up that character over the course of hours or days (Rather than months and years of MMO) is a pretty cool core. I can see that ported out to lots of different contexts. But if you take that, and keep it set in a zombie apocalypse, then that’s just pretty poor.

  • A game can have great visuals etc, but if it’s just plain boring, I cannot force myself to continue playing it. One of the reasons I have always loved the total war series is its just plain fun commanding thousands of troops on an open battlefield.

  • I almost agree but I’d say the % is more like 90%. The simple solution to the creative design problem is to develop tools for the average gamer to mod games. Pretty much every game i’ve seen modded, has had better design implementations. The more people able to implement or modify existing games the better games we’ll see.
    Developers also have to design engines to play the strengths of gaming, i.e. Customizable characters, customizable objects, customizable enemies campaigns and worlds, in fantasy environments. Linear campaigns and set characters are not replayable and gets old fast, leave the storytelling to video and book formats. Stop casting gamers as actors and start casting gamers as directors in their own world.
    Focus on gameplay 1st and 2nd, and then use the rest of the resources to make it look as pretty as possible. Gaming is an escape, no one really wants games to look like real life, hyper real or fantasy should be the goal.
    Enough with linear and dialog style gaming (watch a video or read a book), hire action martial arts choreographers to design the combat systems (like hiring art designers for environments).
    Dragon’s Dogma is the best example of customizable combat I’ve seen so far and Sleeping Dogs also has a good action focus.
    Dota game format should be the industry example for multiplayer games.

    • I would much prefer they spent MORE time of story telling and campaigns.
      Pure focus on mechanics is fine for a multiplayer game but for a single player it is all about the story and the characters for me.

  • I would agree that CA do game play over technical proficiency. It was impossible for me to play Shogun 2 until I changed from a 7870 to a 680.

  • I think with the increasing prevalence of indie games and kickstarter projects, we’re seeing a new age of gaming where a lot of new ideas are going to be flowing through the gaming space. Without the heavy capital investment and returns required of big publishers, it’s conceivable that developers will be more able to take risks into other areas that haven’t been explored very well in games.

    At least, I hope so!

  • I’m going to don a few hats in saying my following statement:
    1. A Gen Y who is old enough to be considered Gen Y but not young enough to be considered inexperienced.
    2. A gamer who has continually invested time into gaming since the age of 2 – 3 years old and has seen just about every console / PC revolution over the years.
    3. In the real world i’m a b.comp sci by background, now days specialising as QA/testing consultant for large companies and having served as a senior QA lead for some time.

    I think that the biggest problem we face with current game releases is that business pressure is forcing rapid release with poor testing. At the end of the day a game is still a piece of software development, implemented by a project plan and designed to go through several layers of testing and acceptance before being released to market.

    For a long time I truly believe that gaming was different to the typical software ecosystem. Whilst every big release had ‘bugs’ , there was nothing like the crap we have had to put up with some titles as a example below:

    Shogun 2 – broken multiplayer, desyncing, crashing) out of the box.

    Black Ops – was meant to be even bigger than MW2 and they completely botched it due to performance and instability (stutter anyone?) in the process alienating their fanbase.

    Diablo 3 – was so horribly non playtested that the only people on release who got anywhere were a seldom few who discovered bugs and exploits and kept them to themselves for a month.

    These are major IPs (maybe Shogun 2 is smaller in comparison) but good, established IPs which were all a great example of taking a beloved franchise and just completely destroying any good will or allegiance to their brands through poor release quality and testing.

    Its a bit rich for any company like Creative Assembly to be asserting these types of statements when Shogun 2 had so many issues on launch that quite frankly ruined the overall experience for me. How these companies can release such a poor quality product and sleep at night quite frankly baffles me – if I went to release with so many glaring issues i’d literally struggle to sleep or feel particularly good about myself.

    I’d love to write a massive essay on this at some point drawing a parallel to both my experiences in the gaming and professional world, but its not really reserved for this section obviously. I’d also love to see the companies themselves being more humble and understanding that gaming is about fun more than iteration (or lack thereof) rather than pointing the finger at other developers when they are also guilty of the same mistakes.

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