Food For Thought
Five developers. Three courses of dinner. One discussion about key issues facing games today
Following a long day at this year’s Evolve conference in Brighton, it is time for dinner, drinks, and the opportunity to chew over the topics of the day. And who better to invite along than people intimately involved in the issues driving videogames in 2015? Joining us at Brighton’s Hotel Du Vin are former EA and ngmoco man Neil Young, now CEO of mobile-game publisher N3twork; Dave Ranyard, studio director at Sony’s London development facility, where he’s overseeing Project Morpheus games such as The Heist; Todd Harris, COO of Smite and Tribes: Ascend creator Hi-Rez Studios; Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software, home to the Borderlands series; and Dan Pinchbeck, creative director at The Chinese Room, the studio behind Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. Dining options ordered, we get started with our first topic: virtual reality.
Neil, this morning you said you feel that mainstream VR adoption is three to five years away, and that you see the social aspect as a barrier – that people will be reluctant to shut themselves off from others around them – but hasn’t that happened already, with mobile phones? Neil Young
First, I should preface anything by saying that I think VR and AR are super fucking cool. I just don’t think they’re a scale business opportunity yet. I think a lot of people are thinking they are, and are jumping into it, and they’re just going to get blown up in the process. So, if you want to be in that space, I’m advocating that you should be focusing on things that actually define the platforms, that kind of set the boundaries of what these things can do, versus porting your existing product or just doing something in the space because you think it’s the next gold rush. In America, the VC community makes it feel like it’s the next gold rush, because the previous gold rush is now over from their perspective, so they need the next one, and I don’t think it’s necessarily helping.
In terms of the human use case, in the case of VR games I think it’s about immersing yourself in a world, and it wants you to spend a long period of time in there. But I think there are social limitations, and maybe even physical or medical limitations, that affect your ability to do that. So I think it creates a conundrum for VR that has to be solved. For me, as someone who has a family, I have a teenage boy who you’d think would be all over
FIFA VR if it came out. But from my perspective as a parent, I find it hard to imagine him locking himself into that world, so that’s going to apply some kind of parental friction into the environment. There are family-related issues. My wife is obviously married to someone who makes games, she’s worked in the games industry and the visual effects industry, and she’s pretty progressive in her thinking, but the idea of her husband sitting with a helmet on his head for more than one hour a week is just a non-starter. I think there are a lot of things we have to work through. That doesn’t mean it’s not cool, and it doesn’t mean to say it’s not going to be big. The idea of my daughter going to college, and being able to sit and watch a movie with her and feeling like I’m in the same room, that’s really appealing to me. But these things are going to happen much more slowly than we want them to happen. I think it’s because VR fits into this construct that we’ve developed through science fiction, and now it’s here, so we want it to happen even faster than the natural limitations may allow.
Dave Ranyard In terms of the social aspect, I think it has more to do with sci-fi writers than what’s actually happening. As a studio, we petitioned SCEI to give us what we call a
Creative director, The Chinese Room
CEO, Gearbox Software
Studio director, SCEE London
COO, Hi-Rez Studios