Where’s innovation gonna come from?

 Posted by (Visited 8892 times)  Game talk
Mar 032006
 

Jeff Vogel says,

…you’re only going to get big changes from big companies, with big resources…

Indie developers have a real purpose in this world. They make little niche products for markets too small for Activision… They rewrite Asteroids… because someone has to.

But truly innovative games? The sort you’re only going to see a few more times in your lifetime?

Those will come from Electronic Arts.

Please feel free to kill yourself now.

  33 Responses to “Where’s innovation gonna come from?”

  1. Bleh.

    Maybe indie developers won’t make games of great breadth, scale and detail (I think that’s where the cost comes from). And indie developers may soon find console development out of reach.

    But I’ll bet lots of individual innovative game features come from indie developers. Being small gives you some freedom to explore risky ideas (some of which turn out to be amazing).

    I’ll bet the big co’s have so many voices around the design table that innovative concepts migrate back to normal (please, tell me I’m wrong). Big companies, in any industry, tend to want to minimize risk (do what works only better or branded with a different color) … that’s not innovation.

    There was story on CBS a while back about a group of kids who built a car that runs on Soybean biodiesel, goes 0-60 in 4s and gets 50 miles to the gallon. (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/17/eveningnews/main1329941.shtml) Now there’s indy innovation.

    Of course, none of us are every likely to drive that car … but indy games are a lot easier to distribute.

    Is there anyone out there with recent experienec as an indie developer? I’d almost say that things have never looked more promising for indie developers (save perhaps, the early days, when there were only indie developers). There are toolsets galore to jumpstart your work, markets to purchase models, markets to sell your game, and the Internet for inspiration and technical assistance.

  2. Spiderweb Software, owned and operated by Jeff Vogel, develops excellent CRPGs (I bought a copy of Exile I and Exile II when they were first released as shareware); however, I’m not certain if Vogel can speak as an authority on interactive entertainment innovation…

  3. A-Sharp’s King of Dragon Pass was one of the better games I’ve ever played – and the game system was nothing like the competition. They’re independent developers, no matter which way you slice it – a small employee-owned software company that did a (great!) game for fun, lost money, and can’t afford to do it again.

    http://a-sharp.com/

  4. Hard to argue with that. If it is EA then suicide seems like a reasonable option.

    Unless, of coarse, you have your very own content tranmogifier Raph.

  5. Yeah and no. First of all, I think he is somewhat guilty of a very common prejudice against casual games. I think that he is probably, unconsciously, discounting a lot of innovation just because it is casual.

    He also seems to be conflating market success with innovation. Why is Oasis “just” incremental whereas The Sims is not? I suspect it is because one was a big hit and the other was not, more than anything. Yes, Oasis is niche whereas The Sims has more maisntream appeal. But niches are often very innovative. In fact, niches are usually the result of an innovation. Perhaps this is why he is dismissive of casual games, because he seems to indicate that they are themselves niche — which strikes me as odd. Casual games are at least a genre, if not several genres, and casual gaming is a growing, healthy facet of the games industry. I can’t see how they are any more niche than FPS’s or RTS’s.

    I think the standard cycle is that niches exist and innovate, often quite a bit, but fail to hit the mainstream because they are off doing things that don’t appeal to the masses. Occasionally, a niche does something that does have mass-appeal. At this point one of two things usually happens:

    1) The creaters of the niche product get really rich, take over the market for the newly created genre, and become the new Overlords at which point we may even forget that they started indie.

    2) More likely, the idea gets picked up and polished by someone else and achieves its greatest commercial success through a larger company even though it started with something indie.

    We see this happen in all media. Local music scenes become household names like “grunge” and get picked up by or create major labels. Indie movies made on shoestring budgets get picked up by Mirimax and make millions. Odd underground comic books strike a chord and their authors get ridiculed by David Letterman. Many of the new game portals and sites started at least somewhat indie. And sure, they are doing lots of “casual” stuff. But a lot of casual stuff like Insaniquarium or Feeding Frenzy is pretty innovative. There have been a few other Insaniquarium games lately and I wonder if that won’t be a new genre in and of itself at some point.

    So, if you say that it is very unlikely that an indie-created RPG will sell a million copies then you are almost certainly correct. But I think it is incorrect to think that indie games won’t influence the mainstream market. They will do so, but by the time the ideas make it to the mainstream, we may not even recognize what they are.

  6. He raises some good points. That ‘true’ innovation is hard. That incremental innovation is easy. That we’re more likely to see incremental innovation over genre-busting innovation.

    I also agree with his points that everyone is afraid of risk, and everyone wants success.

    Innovation is going to come from people who can recognize a good idea, can implement it, then can market it. Generally speaking, this requires a team of professionals, and thusly, funding.

    This sort of talent can come from anywhere, but where I think he’s spot on is that EA (or pick publisher with money of choice) will employ these people. Because ultimately someone who can do the above is valuable and in consequence can gain access to the funds they need to implement their ideas.

    A good and current example: Spore. You could not make that game as an indie. It requires too much talent across the board. So in that sense, I also agree.

    If EA, SoE et all are the ones who have the funds for innovation. So be it. Will this stifle some innovation? Most certainly, but this isn’t also a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with incremental innovation on a good idea. The first implementation is almost never implemented to perfection (ie. first gen EQ/UO compared to modern MMO’s) and the industry doesn’t hurt from taking it’s time and working out the kinks in a given genre.

    Oh well, enough rambling here, this has given me some food for thought on innovation and game mechanics. Going to go blog it so I don’t derail this conversation any further.

  7. The writing does seem to have a core of truth in its undercurrents. I think maybe Vogel is trying to say that indie developers who are persuing more obscure goals such as creating retro-RPG’s should be honest about the fact that they are making a game for a small niche and will never make millions on that. That I think is an important point and I think one that a lot of indies (as well as gamers) miss. They conflate their own interests with success as a game and assume that a game that meets their interests will be commercially successful. It’s this same sort of tunnel-vision, however, which refuses to see innovation in more casual titles (they aren’t “real” games, by which someone means, they aren’t the games *I* want to play).

    That’s the point I’ve been trying to make with regards to the “laments” post and the “ideal MMORPG” post. I think it’s important to be honest about some of the things we want and realize that, as the market expands, the newer members will be less “hardcore”. The more soccer moms that start playing MMORPG’s the more we will shrink as a %’age of the audience who likes things such as skill being more important than time, complex skill systems, complex games systems, hardcore roleplaying, etc.

  8. […] This thread of consciousness spawned by Raph’s link to this interview. […]

  9. Minor innovations will continue to evolve in major releases from major companies. I very seriously doubt you’ll ever see anything vastly innovative here. Same reason we have Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 now.

    True revolution-type innovation will come FROM the indie developers…HOWEVER, it will not come THROUGH them.

    Just like we saw with Microsoft and Apple, larger companies will watch for gobble up good indie designs that are starting to show success. Indies (in this case, better called “hobbyist devs”) can be radical without risk.
    But guarantee, the moment someone stubmles on a magic apple, everyone will have one.

    Don’t believe me? Answer this question…

    Who created tab-based GUI?

  10. Just to add once more: It will come from the top down. Ancedotal: My GF, once a busy UO player, plays Pogo every week to try and get the week’s badges. She has clothes she bought. She has a house and farm she bought. The only thing lacking at this point is the VW navigation to the minigame.

    As StGabe says, far less hardcore.

  11. Once upon a time, a new platform was a new opportunity for a new creative ecosystem.

    It would unfold this way:

    1. A new platform would be launched.

    2. Established publishers and developers would ignore it. (“It’s a small market.”)

    3. The creator of the platform would be forced to make developing on their platform cheap and easy.

    4. Anonymous publishers and developers, with nothing to lose, would gamble their future on the new platform.

    5. Because the best this art/industry has to offer naturally comes from anonymous publishers and developers, the ecosystem surrounding the new platform would grow and grow and grow…

    6. Anonymous publishers and developers would stop being anonymous. Some would be acquired by established publishers and developers.

    7. Moats and castles would be torn down and new legendary publishers and developers would be consecrated.

    8. This cycle would repeat.

    Question:

    Who broke that cycle?

    The answer is obvious, or is it!?

  12. /die

    ehm…

    One’s innovation is old story for someone else.

    It’s quite hard to get everyone to admit innovation. For example, how one could write an innovative song as all the notes have already been played?

    Ok, it’s shaky but still, I believe “innovation” is a point of view to some extent. Why wouldn’t be an innovation to build something on an old design but with improvements?

  13. Maybe innovation is difficult to define, but most of us have zero difficulty identifying what it is not.

    Cookie-Cutter Game 6, for instance, is NOT an example of “innovation”, unless Cookie-Cutter Game 6 has nothing in common with Cookie-Cutter Game, Cookie-Cutter Game 2, Cookie-Cutter Game 3, Cookie-Cutter Game 4, Cookie-Cutter Game 5, The Original Cookie, The Original Cookie 2 and The Original Cookie 3.

    The weasely tendency of most is to say:

    We can’t really define “innovation”, it’s too subjective, it’s too conceptual, it’s too much a matter of taste…so, let’s forget about it altogether, let’s keep on believing everything is OK…

    That’s “nice”, but the public has a clear understanding of what “innovation” is not…and they see a lot of that…and they will take their money elsewhere.

  14. (re: DP’s post)

    I don’t think that is fair or true. It seems that my blog has automatically linked above, so I won’t retread the points I cover there. But to require innovation to be completely exclusive from everything that has come before is beyond rediculous.

  15. The indie problem… again

    Raph pointed out an article on RPG Vault about the failure of indie games from an indie game developer (http://rpgvault.ign.com/articles/692/692642p1.html). I certainly feel for Jeff Vogel, being an indie developer myself, but I disagree with his con…

  16. He’s wrong. Largely, innovation comes from small studios which get picked up by larger companies after the studio has struck on something new and interesting.

    Most of the large publishers have a hard time coming up with new and cool, because innovation requires time, iteration and a willingness to fail. Generally these are things large (espcially public) companies have a strong aversion to.

  17. Necessity is the mother of all invention, the old saying goes.

    Vogel is massively narrowing what it means to be innovative, as some of the other commentors noted. Innovation is possible by anyone who’s 1) familiar enough with a field and 2) crazy enough to come up with something different. There isn’t a whole lot more to it. Well, there’s always 3) makes it happen. =P

  18. # StGabe Says:
    March 3rd, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    The writing does seem to have a core of truth in its undercurrents. I think maybe Vogel is trying to say that indie developers who are persuing more obscure goals such as creating retro-RPG’s should be honest about the fact that they are making a game for a small niche and will never make millions on that.
    &
    That’s the point I’ve been trying to make with regards to the “laments” post and the “ideal MMORPG” post. I think it’s important to be honest about some of the things we want and realize that, as the market expands, the newer members will be less “hardcore”.

    I agree with this statement, from my experience people project themselves on to others in a generic way, forgetting others may not have the same background or even mood and thus they will not appreciate something.
    Another point Jeff mentions is something I am keen to point out when people have said how original my ideas are; they are not really since everything is based on things I have learnt from somewhere. Original thought is rare, always has been.
    However I disagree with the overall message, since it is a generalised statement. Just because overall computer games are becoming bigger and bigger budget endeavours does not mean that a indie cannot do something spectacular, just that is unlikely. Whilst computers are not quite the same as films my point is that film technology and know-how has developed a lot and small teams of people have managed to make cheap, small productions that are both critically acclaimed and also financially very successful. Programming tools have massively advanced in recent times, so indies still have a chance to be both inventive and very financially succesful.

  19. Oh, come on…I was just trading a broad blind statement for another.

    Let me give you a few examples that will clarify what I meant…

    I consider these games DO NOT raise the “not innovative” flag:

    – World of Warcraft
    – Oblivion
    – Psychonaut
    – Indigo Prophecy

    I consider these games DO raise the “not innovative” flag:

    – Halo 2
    – DOA 4
    – EA Sports’ gaggle of roster updates
    – PGR 3

    What would be truly ridiculous would be to claim that we cannot identify games that are not innovative, orginal, fresh, coming from the blood, heart and guts of some passionate creator.

    Everybody can and everybody longs for those.

  20. I consider these games DO NOT raise the “not innovative” flag:

    – World of Warcraft

    See, for me, World of Warcraft DO raise the “not innovative” flag.

    Innovative: adj 1: ahead of the times;

    Whatever feature implemented in WoW that you don’t find in other games still isn’t enough (at least for me) to call it innovative. It still follows the current pattern of online worlds and it ends up looking just like any other if you get the big picture.

    Putting a GPS or a DVD player in your car doesn’t make it innovative. It still follows the same pattern of all other cars.

    What would be truly ridiculous would be to claim that we cannot identify games that are not innovative, orginal, fresh, coming from the blood, heart and guts of some passionate creator.

    You wouldn’t be able to get everyone in the world to say that the earth is round so my point is only that there’s nothing shocking to me about where or what innovation is.

  21. Could I agree with Jeff Vogel?

    But it’s probably the concept of “innovation” that is causing the misunderstanding.

  22. If we take that innovation and The Next Big Thing(tm) are linked together then I find it interesting that in many other industries the innovation is done by “indie” companies that are funded by the big corporate establishements. Big movie publishers fund indie studios in hopes that they discover a technique or a process that is usefull on a broader scale. If the indie happens to churn out a great movie, it’s a bonus and a further indication that the process is valuable. However, a great movie is not the only indication that an innovative process discovered by an indie studio is valuable.

    Pixar was an indie at one time, Their animation software/processes were their main asset until they began churning out blockbuster after blockbuster. Their movie success was a very very nice side benefit that was born from their work on animation techniques and processes. Had Pixar created sub-par movies it wouldn’t have taken away the innovation that their animation studio brought to the world of animated movies. Somebody with a better knack for telling stories would have used the animation techniques. This differs from how things go down in the games industry. We would have tossed the technology aside looking for the next great game to sell.

    I disagree with Jeff in his statement that starvation doesn’t fuel innovation. It’s precisely when everything is on the line that we find we’re the most innovative. If not worrying about starving was the key to innovation, then the big funded companies would have long since figured out a way to make this work on a larger scale. I could go on and on about how it is typically the little guy often on the brink of starvation that innovates before the idea is swept into the larger part of an industry, yet the game industry can’t seem to figure out how to institutionalize this idea. Perhaps it has to do with our belief that the only good to come out of any game related innovation is the released version of the game the company was developing. Everything is measured by boxed sales. As was noted in a previous post to this discussion even Mr. Vogel’s arguments seem to point this out.

    WISH is a good example of this mentality. The owners of WISH decided to cancel the project and simply auction off the assets. The engine and the servers largely went unbid on while the art assets were sold for pennies on the dollar. As far as I know, we were the only group that put in a bid for the entire asset/engine base.(funding fell through so it didn’t work out, ironic) The engine they built had a real time quest/content designer tool built into it. If you liked what a group of players were doing, you could add to the experience right then and there with very little effort. The effect was very very cool and pretty unique in the graphical MMO space. It was very innovative stuff but because the only good that could come from all that innovation was the end product there was no perceived value in an engine that hadn’t shipped a game. To me, as an industry, we threw away a piece of innovation because we’re blinded by the boxed sale as the only means to justify innovation.

    Other industries have long since refined the idea of what can be salvaged during the creative-destructive process of capitalism. It’s about time games grew up and figured out how to do the same. If more than just boxed sales can become of an indie developer then there’s more justification for investing in an indie developer. This isn’t to say investment like this hasn’t happened. One could classify the investment in Turbine under this way of thinking. The investors involved with Turbine might have realized that just because Turbine hadn’t release an EQ killer with its tech that didn’t necessarily mean an EQ killer couldn’t be developed using that tech. This is the exception and not the rule. Investment under these pretenses is far from being an industry practice like it needs to be to further the innovation people want to see. I’ve been an advocate of the industry figuring out how to emulate the Procter and Gamble’s of the world from a product/technology standpoint. I believe its the key to getting innovation back on the right track so that ten years from now the most highly anticipated game of the year is not Halo 14.

  23. Read Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers. Amazon provides downloadable versions of the book.

  24. This might be a good point in time to ask this question. Do developer/programer types have as much input in these coorporations as the bean counters and marketing types?

  25. […] Comments […]

  26. The answer to your question, Amaranthar, depends on the business environment, financial situation, corporate hierarchy, and a few other variables. Remember that every company is different to some degree. The answer to your question cannot be expressed as a simple formula.

  27. I wrote quite a bit about my thoughts to the article in a trackback from my own blog. You can find the link above. A few more thoughts:

    The basic problem is that it’s hard to sell an indie game. The game has to be essentially better than a normal published game to really gain any attention. If you’re game is hard to get into, doesn’t have a good demo, or any one of a dozen other potential little flaws, people will ignore it because you’re already fighting against the stereotype that indie games are most likely awful. I think this is the biggest problem, personally, because it’s impossible for one indie developer to compete with the large games or to enact a massive change of opinion like that.

    I think Abalieno also hit on another problem with his comment above: What is the definition of “innovative”? For some people, the sum of all the little improvements of Oblivion over Morrowind might be innovative enough; for others, the games are fairly similar and not terribly innovative. I’d also consider Meridian 59 to still be innovative since it has features you still don’t find in other online RPGs; for others, the game’s age means they wouldn’t find it innovative. Who is right? This reminds me of all those countless “What is an RPG?” or “What is an online game?” discussions I’ve seen (and, sadly, participated in) over the years. In the end of these types of discussion, not much really changes because of these types of discussions.

    Some more thoughts,

  28. Innovation is going to come from somewhere we least expect it. It’s not generally a company that holds back on the innovation front, though I agree some companies shy away from going into the realm of the untried. However, I believe that real innovation comes from those with the drive to make it happen. If they have the drive and garner the support of coworkers to innovate, it will happen no matter what company the innovators work for.

    Also in agreement with other commenters here, what is innovation? It could be argued that there have been many innovations in online gaming over the past few years. EVE is pretty innovative, in that it’s a different take on online games. WoW is innovative in that it is accessible to many different player types. EQII is innovative in that it embraces more change (positive or negative) than any other game I’ve seen (its PvP system could be declared innovative as well). Guild Wars is innovative in that it doesn’t cost money per month and is almost exclusively instanced. I could probably list every single massively multiplayer game out there today and say that it’s innovative in some way if I really wanted to.

    I’m not really arguing for or against innovation, although if I were asked I’d definitely indicate that I’m in favor of pushing the envelope and innovating. But I think a lot of games have been innovating lately by advancing the genre and the way we think when creating or playing these games.

    What will we consider innovative? Any game that could likely be seen as innovative will probably be dismissed as a copycat or amalgamation of ideas rather than innovative because people will ignore the innovations and focus on the recycled. That is, even if a game is innovative, it is likely to be in a genre that we are familiar with and will likely include many elements common to MMORPGs. So even if the game is very innovative in many respects, it will be similar enough to others to be dismissed as another “EQ clone.”

  29. The definition of innovation clearly varies depending on who is asked. We could retain the simplicity of the economist’s definition, which would render most applications “not innovative” since most applications are built on market-tested systems. On the other hand, we can attend to a marketing definition:

    Innovation is something that you almost naturally bring to the table, by virtue of applying your imagination and your inventiveness, but it’s also the ability to combine existing ideas, thoughts, and images in a startling new way. Without innovation, there’s no engagement. In other words, if you just repeat what the other person said, chances are that the consumer is not going to pay any attention to you. You are just repeating something the consumer has already heard before. So, innovation is a condition for engagement. It’s what makes people look at, relate to, interact with and hopefully act as a result of the experience. Innovation is at the very center of commercial creativity.

    — Marcio M. Moreira, Vice Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of McCann-Erickson Worldwide

    Using this definition, we are presented with the opportunity for a more practical discussion regarding the development of immersive interactive experiences. This focus is contrary to, or perhaps a step above, the development of virtual worlds, bound by rules of play, driven to an existing market by a timid risk-management culture…

  30. There will always be a lot of NOT innovative stuff coming from indies. One reason for this is that newbies often want to cut their teeth on something familiar, before they move on to something original. This is not a bad thing. It’s much more dangerous to start out on something overly ambitious, because you’re much more likely to see your project fall apart, and then lose interest, completely. But, because of this proliferation of copycats, it’s easy to develop the misconception that indies are a bunch of uninspired wannabes.

    Vogel says something very telling: “Not being afraid of starvation does wonders for the mind.” I think he’s forgotten that quite a few indies haven’t even quit their day jobs!

    Personally, I think that the ideas are out there, but that the success rate for non-trivial indie game projects is extremely low. There are many reasons for this that have nothing to do with starvation. I’m starting to think I should put together a little indie survival kit.

    The thing that really breaks my heart is that a lot of lone indies are just biding their time until they get an industry job. This keeps them making cheesy demos, instead of full games. Here they are at an indie conference, and they just keep asking questions about how to get hired. Sure, I’ll give them advice, but I will also point out to them that if they are sufficiently motivated, there’s nobody who can stop them from making games.

  31. The new wave of socially challenging games, also know as interactive drama or storytelling, can be produced on scratch budgets by indie teams, due to the generative nature of the cotent on such platforms. Big companies could dive in if they knew it were profitable, but for now its indies that’ll take the risk and follow their gut. It is possible to make millions with such a title under the indie buisiness model, just by selling a few hundred thousand copies. Thats hard to do for a niche asterioids re-make or whatever, but something highly re-playable and truly innovative might have a chance. I think we’ll be seeing a crop of such titles late this year and in ’07.

  32. […] Thoughts on Innovation Lots of people talking about innovation in games this past week, mostly due the catalyst article that is Jeff Vogel indie dev article “View From the Bottom #2” . Not one to miss the meme, I thought I’d chime in with some thoughts.Among the posts that caught my attention:Raph Koster references the above article and extracts a worthy quote. Robin references the same article and points out that innovation is hard. (Amen)Someone else pointed me to this post by Dan C from a year ago about innovation in games (good read, though I don’t agree with all of it)So that do we mean by “innovation” and why is it a problem? Well, innovation is quite simply “the act of introducing something new”. And why is that a problem? Well, it’s twofold: You need to *invent* (or ‘create’, depending if you are a left- or right-brainer 🙂 something new, and there’s a risk that you may fail, and You have to hope that people will buy it. I suppose there is a third problem which is that you hope someone doesn’t build it first – but by definition if you are innovating your chance of this being a problem are lower than if you are building “the same old thing”, so let’s just focus on the first two problems.The claim from many is that the first problem isn’t a problem, that there’s many ideas out there, just no one willing to fund them. Well, if that’s the case then it’s just another flavor of problem number two, right? People (with $5M) have to buy that it can be built. Then you build it, then you hope that other people (like, a couple hundred thousand of them, with $50 each) will buy it. That’s if you are doing Big Innovation. The kind Jeff says only EA can do. Nonsense, others say, EA won’t take risks (I’m guilty of saying this myself, but I have to take it back based on what I’m going to say later in this post) and it’s the little Indie guy with nothin’ to lose that can take the risks. Well, tell that to Indie guy who’s got to eat and all that.At the end of the day, it’s risk taking. And anyone, regardless of the size of their bank account, has a level at which they are uncomfortable. MS, of course, has a fairly sizeable bank account, but I’d venture to say (and I’m guessing, it’s not my group) that when the whole Xbox Live thing got underway, some people where feeling that comfort level being stretched. And some people would claim it’s innovative (at least parts of it).So I was ready to dismiss it at that. Big guys can take big risks on little projects (Namco and Katamari) or little risks on big projects (EA’s Neil Young’s example of innovate a bit within an established genre or franchise), little guys can take little risks in little projects or big risks in, well, little projects (examples to follow).I *was* ready to dismiss it at that, and then 3 things happened.Adam Lake had a think. Adam (a former co-worker at Intel) is enjoying one of Intel’s perks, his sabbatical, and is currently trekking around Australian and New Zealand doing things like catering to his girlfriends tropical fruit fetish and spelunking into caves to look at glow worms. (I didn’t even know those were real! Note to self – less virtual experiences, more real ones.). Anyhow. Adam’s doing some reading on his trip and just got through Stephenson’s Quicksilver and made some comparisons to the historical references therein to tipping points. Hmm… innovation. Tipping points. Is innovation really about carrying everyone from ‘as we are’ to ‘as we could be’ single handedly? Or is it a bucket brigade? Or a mix of both.The second thing that happened was that I got forwarded to Plasma Pong. Stop now, go play. Ok, you are back? I don’t know about you, but I’d say making pong fun again – making pong anything other than tedium – is innovation. Plasma Pong.But what is the innovation? Pong’s been done. The author credits Jos Stam’s fluid dynamics work from a couple years back for that part of it. There’s probably some IHV demo code influence behind the choice graphics. Innovation? Or tipping point? Or is this one step away from a more finely tuned multiplayer version that sells a few hundred thousand units on Xbox Live Arcade, and would that be the tipping point?The third thing that occurred to me is one I can’t talk about, and it’s too bad because it’s the biggest one. I saw a game prototype (I see a lot of stuff in my new job here) that was a significant twist on a mechanic within a well established casual game genre. Not a “oh, that’s neat, it changes it a bit” kind of twist. More of a “Holy crap, you’ve invented a new genre” kind of twist. A “Why in tarnation has no one in twenty years of this genre existing not thought of this!?”. This was less “there’s gold in them there hills” and more “turns out there’s a secret gold mine under New York city”. Ok, maybe now I’m overstating it, but I have a point to make. Innovation is all around us. Anytime someone pushes their comfort level a little and takes a risk on something new, there’s a chance they may innovate in some way. Building on these, both the good and the mistakes, pushes us forward. I play a lot of casual games *A LOT* as part of my new job. I came into it with the same prejudice of “not another dang match-3 game”, only to realize that there is far more innovation than people realize. Sure, there are clones, but there are many interesting twists, changes to mechanics or theme or gameplay balance, that make many of these innovative games. And it occurred to me that the negative stereotype of the match three games wasn’t coming from people that played them – it was coming from the hardcore gamer crowd. Guess what guys and gals, outside fans of the FPS genre, Half Life 2 was just “another game where you kill people”. Your gramma might confuse it with Unreal. This is no different than kids saying “opera is crap” and old folks saying “that dang heavy metal music all sounds the same”. Each wouldn’t recognize innovation in the genre they dislike.So I’d argue again that innovation is alive and well. It hurts to take risk – for anyone. Nothing new there. Maybe part of the problem is that incremental risk and incremental innovation doesn’t breed anything but incremental reward and recognition. Is the problem that both fans and developers alike want “hero innovation” of the Carmack kind? We want to be wowwed all in one go in a big orgasm of innovative gaming, or we want to be the hero that delivered it.Food for thought. […]

  33. […] I thought I’d chime in with some thoughts.Among the posts that caught my attention:Raph Koster references the above article and extracts a worthy quote. Robin references the same article and points out […]

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