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Monkey Island creator says developers should stop worrying about audience expectations

Monkey Island creator says developers should stop worrying about audience expectations

Tue 17 Jul 2012 4:18pm GMT / 12:18pm EDT / 9:18am PDT
DevelopmentDesign

Double Fine's Ron Gilbert believes caving to gamer expectations stifles creative approach

An interesting discussion with the team at The Gameological Society and Ron Gilbert has made it clear that the famed developer believes little in appeasing gamer expectations. In an industry where many who work on the creative side feel an almost impossible pressure from gamers, Gilbert believes that "anybody creating anything" should simply block out the audience's expectations.

"You have to do what you want to do, and you have to do what you think is the right thing to do and what you think is the best thing to do," said Gilbert. "People who like what you do and are fans of your work are just going to like what you do as long as you do something true to yourself.

"You can get into a lot of trouble when you start to worry too much about what people are going to think because then you start to get into this weird self-censorship cycle. You do something that might be interesting and different and unique, but you become too worried what people are going to think, and you censor it."

The constant back and forth between gamers and developers has had many weighing in on the creative constraints that come along with developing a vested storyline that draws in gamers. Most notable of incidents is perhaps the backlash that Mass Effect 3 and the team at BioWare received when the game's ending did not meet the expectations of many fans.

Other titles have shared similar fates as well, including Fallout 3, which forced Bethesda to completely re-write the ending through a rather sizeable DLC pack. Even some games have changed major points to stop fierce backlash; 2010's Medal of Honor reboot was forced to change enemy combatants in the multiplayer mode from the Taliban to 'OPFOR' to appease many critics.

Gilbert still stands resolute in his beliefs, saying "It's all these pointy little spikes and all these little things you can cut yourself and prick yourself on, that's what makes creative work interesting."

"If you get into self-censorship mode, you start to pound all those pointy edges away because you're very afraid of offending somebody or worried what somebody will think of it. And then what you're left with is kind of blah, just not interesting."

"I think you just need to do what you think is the right thing to do, and hopefully people like it."

4 Comments

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,484 1,254 0.8
In an industry where many who work on the creative side feel an almost impossible pressure from publishers
Fixed that for you.
"You have to do what you want to do, and you have to do what you think is the right thing to do and what you think is the best thing to do," said Gilbert. "People who like what you do and are fans of your work are just going to like what you do as long as you do something true to yourself."
Quoted for Truth.

Edit to say:

It still shocks me that the part the publisher plays in the creator-publisher-consumer/fanboy dynamic is glossed over so much. Out of all three groups, the publisher has the most to financially gain from ensuring the creative work is loved by the consumer (or, rather, the most consumers). I wonder what little focus-group answers Activision or EA throw to their subsidiary studios in an effort to tweak things.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 17th July 2012 9:13pm

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Jack Lee

60 6 0.1
Not to clash too hard here, but in mass-market game production (the kind that needs to sell millions of copies to be profitable), things like focus testing and research are important. I'm not saying it can't be used poorly, or sometimes even to the detriment of a game, but when utilized correctly, focus testing, user research, and other data can really help a game be successful and, often, better. Smoothing out rough edges isn't always a bad thing.

That being said, I'm all about the idea of an auteur's vision for a game, especially one as innately creative as Ron Gilbert. So maybe I don't really know what I think. Sigh.

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

595 356 0.6
Ben, why do you say that the ending of Fallout 3 was "completely rewritten through a sizable DLC pack?" I presume you're talking about Broken Steel, but I wouldn't call that a rewrite of the ending; it simply let you continue on after the ending, whereas in the original game, once you'd done the final mission in the main plotline, you couldn't play further.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Andrew Goodchild
Studying development

1,227 388 0.3
Whilst there is a lot to be said for creative vision, there is a big gulf between a project created by one person or a small closely nit group, that just needs to find a comfortable niche of people to like it, and a massive monster project that has to sell millions to break even and has so many people involved that it is progresses by commuter, where 2 people really involved may not know each other, and important figures early on like initial writers or lead designers arn't involved by the end of the project.
Firstly, it's not enough to find a few hundred thousand who get what you're doing if selling a million would still see you reporting a massive loss. Secondly if you are taking the creative vision route, it needs to be constant (unless designed to be some weird project where each chapter is a different director's voice). If different voices are pulling a project in different directions, (which I would say is the case if the lead writer leaves and someone else finishes it off) then it could be argued that other factors need to be considered to keep it on track.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

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