Bulletstorm dev predicts next-gen of game design

"The old ways they no longer work" says Adrian Chmielarz

Adrian Chmielarz, former People Can Fly creative director and head of new studio The Astronauts, predicts that the change in gamers' attitudes could lead to next-generation of game design, and not just hardware.

"Things are aligning in a way that, by the end of this generation, people started asking, 'Hey you know what, why is Nathan Drake a mass murderer?'" he said in an interview with Eurogamer. "And they didn't ask that with the first Uncharted. They didn't ask that previously."


Mass murderer Nathan Drake

"Something happened and it was probably indie games and the fight of indie developers to show a different side of gaming. Some people tasted a little bit of that indie gaming, started thinking about games and then they go back to the old ways and go, 'OK there's something wrong here.'"

He names Dear Esther as a title that showed gamers a different type of play (even if he didn't enjoy it) and references the recent release of Tomb Raider, which saw writer Rhianna Pratchett trying to explain the "ludonarrative dissonance," or the way Lara Croft goes from scared young women to axe wielding stealth killer.

"The designs will change because they will have to change. We are running out of options.The old ways they no longer work," continued Chmielarz.

"If people are truly being bothered by the fact that Drake kills 400 men during the course of the game - that was the beginning - then these questions start popping up more and more, like the BioShock Infinite discussion. Suddenly everything is wrong."

"The designs will have to change, no matter what, so the next generation from that point of view is going to be also, possibly even for the very first time, the next generation of game design."

Chmielarz's new studio is currently working on The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, a "weird fiction horror" that he spoke to GamesIndustry International about in March, explaining the studio was "no longer excited by mammoth-sized games."

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Latest comments (7)

Max Priddy4 years ago
Personally, I think the "old ways" still do work, as the games made in that way are still fun and enjoyable, an example being that bullet sponges aside, Bioshock Infinite was a great game and to be honest, I didn't really find myself this or in any of the Uncharted games for that matter questioning the logic for the killing and the violence - it was just something you did and a part of the narrative as a whole.

And whilst indie games in recent years and some "AAA" titles (looking at you, Spec Ops) have gone to show a different way of playing or experiencing narrative or really trying to make you feel accountable/guilty for your actions, personally I think there's still room for both: if I want a bacon sandwich I'll head to a small local café or just make one myself, and if I want a burger I'll go to Burger King or The Handmade Burger Company or basically wherever they do good burgers, there's room for both to exist as they provide a variety of experiences, and I believe the same applies for the games industry and the types of games made; not every game has to be Call of Duty, but neither does it have to be Braid.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
I want as little narrative as possible please. In fact, bin the entire back story too. "Cohesive" is about the maximum I need to enjoy a game. How much story does putting a rifle shell through hitlers bollock really need anyway...
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Murray Lorden Game Designer & Developer, MUZBOZ4 years ago
I'm excited to at least have the option to check out some games with more character, more mystery, more depth aside from the "core gameplay".

But yes, there's still something to be said for pure gameplay, for sure.
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Axel Cushing Freelance Writer 4 years ago
The basics of game design are likely going to be around for a very long time, and just as likely aren't going to change all that much. I do see a much greater willingness to experiment and try different ideas, explore different themes and narratives, create more elaborate sandboxes and see what comes out. Sure, there's always going to be a market for quickie puzzle and card games, the "pure gameplay" of racking up a high score or making pretty patterns. As much as I love Skyrim or Guild Wars 2, I'm not ashamed to admit to firing up Bejewled for a bit of casual fun.

The fundamentals are just that: fundamental. Those aren't changing. The outlooks and attitudes, the concepts those fundamentals can be applied to, those aren't really changing, either. It's just becoming more comfortable for developers to look at them and try them out.
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Ian Lambert Software Engineer, Criterion Games4 years ago
"the next generation from that point of view is going to be also, possibly even for the very first time, the next generation of game design."

I'd say this happened three generations ago too, with PS1 making 3D the absolute standard, temporarily killing off several old genres in the process (at least as far as console development went), such as traditional puzzlers, side-scrolling platformers, and side-scrolling brawlers.

The interesting difference this time round is that it's not tech that's driving the design change, but competition and influence from other branches of the industry, which didn't really exist in the same way previously. Chmielarz is presumably looking at the "are they even games?" high-concept (mainly PC-based) indie stuff like Dear Esther and Proteus and seeing that approach as viable in the next gen, but equally if you want unpretentious arcade action (as the commenters above clearly do), there are enough great examples of those being successful outside consoles (Hotline Miami, Super Meat Boy, etc) that those old unsexy genres are creeping back into the market (New Super Mario Bros and Rayman spring to mind).

The great thing about gaming right now is that we're not ALL trying to find out what works in 3D or ALL trying to make the most blinding specular ever to grace a brown concrete corridor wall, but we're innovating in all kinds of different directions, at different scales, and on different devices. Much as I love Bioshock, it's hard to hold it up as an example of mature narrative when you're killing hundreds of monster people. If we can have both really sophisticated narrative games (as I hope this will be), alongside good dumb fun (as Bulletstorm was), then we're all happy right?
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David Serrano Freelancer 4 years ago
@Axel Cushing

"The basics of game design are likely going to be around for a very long time..."

Not necessarily... I think what game developers and the people who've played games for many years forget is that games are a subset of play. They are not the only form of play, video and computer games represent one of possibly millions of different forms of play. And while the larger, mainstream audience may not enjoy playing games, everybody has a fundamental and essential need to engage in play. Because play is as important to human physical and mental health as sleep.

So while the demand for video and computer games may never grow beyond what it is today, there always has been and always will be a far greater demand for different forms of play. Which means inevitably, somebody will use game engines to develop software designed to deliver different forms of play, but not "games" in any traditional sense. And "someday" is probably only a few years away.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago
Look, Bullet Storm lasted around 6-7 hours. You could purchase it at 60$ sit down, play it once and finish it in one sitting. Thats not worth 60$ dollars to me. Then a day one DLC expansion that could have easily been part of the full game. So if you purchase a game, you finish in one sitting, its likely people would trade it in right away. Thats why it didnt take long for used copies to hit store shelves.
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