Would Mario’s moustache survive a 2015 focus test?
“For Viewtiful Joe, we brought in some kids to a focus test and asked them, ‘What do you think of the characters?’ And all the kids said, ‘Oh, his head’s too big,’ or ‘Silvia’s annoying – I just want to kill her.’ They were just trashing the game, so I just got pissed off and said I’m not changing anything.” PlatinumGames’ intractable Hideki Kamiya there, revealing his distinctive approach to player feedback. That was nearly ten years ago, but we’re talking about a designer who uses Twitter’s block function the way other people play Whac-A-Mole, so it’s unlikely that he’s working on the forthcoming Scalebound with a more open attitude. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine that Hideo Kojima is putting anything other than himself into Metal Gear Solid V – especially when you see his name against the roles of director, producer, writer and designer in the game’s credits sequence. But these attitudes are on the wane. Today, shutting players out increasingly feels like the exception rather than the rule – and the implications run deep.
Knowing when to listen to players, how to do so, and what to do with your findings have become fundamental concerns for studios working in all genres. In Critical Mass, we look at the tangled issue of how modern games are being shaped by communities as well as their creators.
A sense of open-mindedness seems to be extending internally within development studios, too, as illustrated by this month’s cover game. When it made the decision to consider something new rather than continuing to iterate on its 11-year-old Killzone template, Guerrilla Games invited every one of its employees, not only those with the word ‘designer’ in their official job titles, to contribute game ideas. In our lead feature, we discover why it chose the victorious submission and pulled the trigger on Horizon: Zero Dawn, a game born from an unconventional source.
Not everyone will approve of shaking up old conventions like this, of course. “To try to please fans, you can do EVERYTHING,” Kamiya once pronounced to the world via Twitter. “Great theory. Totally against mine.”
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