As the continuing fallout of the "Indie games are Art and Fun games are Crap" Jim Sterling article, I wanted to discuss something related. What is the problem with having a big studio who makes multi-million dollar games? Sure we all like to complain about how microsoft f*s you up with their cheap strategies to print money off of you, and sure we've seen a dozen movies per year with a stereotipically smug corporate villain who "only wants to make money", but the fact is that when you turn up things in scale and start making things for a million customers, you have to find a way to manage it, and since this IS capitalist ground, a company who makes and publishes games can only do it FOR PROFIT. Genius right?
Of course you don't have to take crap for it all the time, you can start by not buying what they sell, but what I really wanna know is: why are they so antagonized? Even when they deliver in good and sound quality. Mass Effect 2 was awesome. Dragon Age was fun. Modern Warfare 2 has it's downturns (I'm a PC guy), but it was pretty damn good on the console versions. Sure none of these titles bear the mark of intangible art form that causes "oohs" and "aahs" from the awed crowd, but these days, what does? We've had nukes going off, we've had epic scale space marinin'- three times - we've had control over time, we've traveled through it, we've killed dragons, dogs, men - living or otherwise. We did it in many ways too: in a board, in a planet, holding a weapon up close, we've been drawing at the screen and playing music with controls or fake plastic guitars. We've done fake and true in all forms and ways.
Admit it, we're hard to impress these days. But that doesn't mean we can just throw the hot potatoe in the hands of someone and just call them out for it when it drops. The fact that Bioware, Activision, Valve, Remedy and all the names we like to blame for the "generic cookie-cutter" fps games, achieved success at some point must be a statement to some form of quality. Sure it's not all roses, with it come the needs of the "market" and the bullshit DLC that already comes inside a disc and the overpriced crap at $60.
I do understand that some time-honed business practices that involve extortion of money out of the unaware customer make us all weary of the corporate background of large developing/publishing companies and that some of is handiwork failed to impress, to say the least, however, it must be taken into account some of the "producing" in the field of art is not only necessary, because it makes the games possible in terms of finance, but also beneficial. Take the most avowed artists of all time and think about it: the great painters and writers of the renaissance would never have had a chance were it not for the sponsoring that rich houses provided, and, make no mistake, this money was not free of balances and checks to the artist work. In fact, many of the paintings were actually customized to match the sponsor's request. Think about movies too, a good producer is not only necessary for the movie funding, it's also a good way to have a practical mind put to weigh in against the more loose and ambitious mind writers and artists tend to have. I'm gonna take a personal guess here: I think if you give someone too creative an unlimited amount of time and money to create the most beautiful and grand project it can craft, he will never finish it. There must be someone with has his feet on the ground about creating something, it can be no different with videogames.
There's also the issue of marketing. A good number of games I know have been ruined by lack of good corporate smart-assing. How do I know? Beyond Good and Evil? The producer to that game was awesome, it turned out great with all the visuals and the characters and the gameplay was fun as hell. Great game? Did you play it? Chances are, you never even HEARD about it. I didn't. Then someone on Dtoid told me about it. Too late now, it could have made a dev team really stand out. Think how good it would be if there was some marketing behind some of the indie games we've played. Braid would take the cake any day, it's a wonderful experience, and yet, without a publisher to market and send nasty stuff into your mailbox for a year before it's release, it's in the closet yet. The second kind of good corporate bullshit that is absolutely necessary to your game is the people who cut corners. They chop off the artists wings all the time. They're probably really annoying people too, always saying that it can't be done, that's theres not much time left and that it won't look good at the stockholders meeting. F**k them. No, please don't. I absolutely believe that there are people like those behind the production of every game that has ever got a 9-10 here. Please God, let there be someone who will come around Peter Molyneux and say: "shut up about changing the world, finish the story and the level design on the new fable game before october, or a dog will chew your balls." I'm also sure these people are not random lowlifes made to the torment and misery of the people who create the games itself, I'm sure they all understand the process at some level, their douchebaggery comes from a necessary evil: you can't play the perfect game, because it will never be made, you can play the absolutely most perfected product to be delivered in able time that can not only be played by you, but also be sold to another hundred thousand people, in order to cover the costs of producing it AND funding the next project.
Considering the difficulty of an industry who is just starting and settling in, with very few standards defined and a lot to be tried and many mistakes to be made, making games today is quite a challenge. Very few people realize how big it is. Of course I sound like I'm defending the Evil Monster here, but I really hate when people bring uninformed claims and make villains out of nowhere to justify a measly point. I'm sure you all, like me, hate all the bad business practices that make EA look really bad, they don't support their games post release, they make DLC that's already in the game, they shutdown their online support for games still on sale, Ubisoft does that a lot too with it's titles. Of course we want to blame them for making us suck it up. They're not all that bad though, at least this current structure was able to give us a lot to play, entertaining and, in some cases, really clever, humorous, creative stuff. Too bad I have to deal with an even harsher reality where I live, because the price of games is something unbelievably prohibitive, with a game costing as much as half a minimum wager. It's not easy, but we get by with all the steam sales. And some piracy if you don't care. (A game here can cost as much as 150 USD if you go to a retail store. You can get it cheaper if you directly buy as a digital copy, but nonetheless, it's still a lot of money)
I guess I could sum it by this: I defend the motto: "Artists on a leash" as the current way of producing games. I don't think it's perfect but it definitely works. They have to think inside a box and produce some work that isn't the most proudly presented and, often, we have to deal with Dark Void esque titles, things truly forged in the flames of hell. But the leash is generally a good thing because it can keep the machine running, and hopefully in the future we will get a better way of handling this. Until then, I'd rather be stuck with the creatively bankrupt than with watching television. God I hate television. You can't even choose what you're gonna watch. Hooray internets.
Well, I guess I went on for too long and am starting to ramble, thank you for the patience of reading through this, I know it's quite long. Also forgive me for any mistranslations, I have some trouble figuring a few idioms here and there. Portuguese is quite a different language.
Other than that, tell me what you think. Do you think artists should have a free reign over their designs? If so, tell me more. Hopefully, I'd like to hear someone from the inside, because I never really went into a game industry to accompany the whole process, my experience comes from a different segment.