The Game of Making Games Panel Discussion at QuakeCon 2012

Everyone who attended QuakeCon had the chance to see Blair Herter from G4TV sit down and talk to some of the biggest names in the gaming industry. The panel was by far one my favorite things from the convention and  it gave a lot of insight into what really goes through their wonderful, video game making minds. The photo below is (from left to right) Jens Matthies from MachineGames, Blair Herter, Raphael Colantonio from Arkane Studios, Ted Price from Insomniac Games and Todd Howard from Bethesda.

 

One of the first questions that Blair Herter asked the group was regarding their approach to making games. Todd Howard said that Bethesda’s main rule was that great games are played, not made. You play with it and you don’t overdesign them. He also went on to say that they think about how a player would feel playing against a dragon in their game Skyrim and add onto that idea. He also went on to say that you see what players enjoy about the game and see if you can expand on that, such as DLC.

Todd Howard also wants gamers to know that things such as minor issues in the game don’t go unnoticed by the team. “People say they could’ve done this, or that. The team knows this, they’ve been working on the game for three years…it’s their perspective just like a on forum online, it comes down to the individual.” Todd Howard makes an excellent point here. I do constantly find myself asking certain things about the game, questioning why they did what they did. It truly does come down to the individual to decide what makes a game amazing and what doesn’t. Raphael Colantonio, co-creative director of Dishonored, said that it is important to let members of the team know that their material may be thrown away- and that it’s okay. He gave an example of a person making a chair for the game, making it over and over again, and having that chair get thrown away. Raphael Colantonio was very positive in regards of how to treat the team and making sure that although it was a great chair, the game didn’t need it.

Blair Herter also asked the panel what is the one word that comes to mind once the game comes out.  All Jens Matthies, an artist for The Darkness, proceeded to do was sigh and say “…f**k.” and laughed. I can only imagine what standards these guys have to live up to. Todd Howard had a more serious answer to the question and said “Exhaustion. You question if you did all you could do for the audience and you don’t know.”

About thirty minutes into Blair’s questions, fans and the press were allowed to ask questions. One man’s question was about how only a small majority of gamers actually finish the game and wanted to know how they felt about it. Todd Howard of Bethesda proceeded to say that the average play time for Skyrim across platforms is 100 hours. Blair and the rest of the panel proceeded to look at Todd and ask “Can you even beat Skyrim?” Raphael lightened it up by saying that “the ones who finish the game are your biggest fans” while Ted Price notes that even if only 10 percent actually finish the game, you have to put something great out there.

One of the final questions asked by a fan was one that really got the panel to think.  He wanted to know what it felt like to never get to experience the game you made and love so much “virginally.” He gave an example of Christopher Nolan never getting to experience Batman the way the audience does. Being the people who make the game, they will never get to play the game without noticing the changes they could have made and so on.  Todd Howard spoke up on this one by saying “there’s still those times I play Skyrim and a dragon comes and I kill it and take its soul and I’m like, f***ing-A. Yeah, that was awesome!” The rest of the panel seemed to agree that they do get to experience a joy, but not the same way the fans do. They get their joy from going to work and actually seeing that tiny idea they had come to life, whether it be a weapon, character or map.

 

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