Sunday, July 17, 2005

The pants in the gaming family

This whole post is more or less a look at another post, this post. David Jaffe, designer of the fantastical PS2 game God of War, made a post a few weeks ago regarding a Deconstruction Group he sat in on. The Deconstruction Group, in David's words:

It was started by the head of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences along with two other key industry folks (one is a game writer, the other heads up the USC game department). Every 3-6 weeks the group takes over a game company's conference room in So Cal (this week it was Naugty Dog), invites a bunch game industry folks, and has a few USC grad students play the key parts of interesting and popular games. As they play, the indsutry types network and chat and discuss the game, while the grad students deconstruct the game, explaining what worked for them, what did not, etc....It's a really cool idea and helps those of us that are sometimes too busy making our own games to explore the newer titles. It's also a nice time to meet up with people in the biz, say hey to old buddies, and make new ones!

Sounds like a great concept to me. He goes on to say "God of War was lots of fun to see being played, chat about,etc....BUT it was when Psychonauts came up that sparks started to fly." And a discussion about developer's rights ensued. He goes on to say "those publisher execs are right in that consumers purchase brands, not games made by specific teams or by specific designers....but they are only right FOR THE TIME BEING...." My God this guy needs to spend more time with Dave Perry, Jason Rubin, and Scott Miller. The time is now! Seize the day! Etc!

Of course the "knock-out punch" in my book is Jason Booth saying "
It allways cracks me up when publishers say that branding the developer dilutes the brand of the title. If that were the case, then they wouldn't put "EA" on the box at all. Try pitching that to them."

The moral of this post? Just a bunch of questions. The Deconstruction Group is a great idea, and I have to wonder how common such things are. And seriously, what are some developers thinking? "It's okay if I don't get credit. One day people will recognize our genius on their own?!"

I mean, most casual gamers I know think that EA makes all of the games with 'EA' on them. Good job developers. Since Atari you've done little but give yourself over as indentured servants to publishers for the glorious opportunity to work in games. As a result, when Atari crashed publishers came around and bought everything for pennies on the dollar and they continue to do it today as a course of normal business that it's quickly forgotten. EA bought Criterion for $48 million. You don't think Burnout, the upcoming Black, and Renderware are worth that much? It's like someone wanted to get rid of Criterion.

And how scary is it when developers are okay with EA saying "having your game associated with you will hurt the game," but I and others like me, folks who wants to get jobs desperately, have huge issues with applying at EA?


Blogger Jeffool said...

For the record, I've edited for grammatical sanity and to point something out. The last paragraph above was previously:

And how scary when developers are okay with EA saying "having your game associated with you will hurt the game," but I, a guy who wants to get a job desperately, has huge issues with applying at EA?

2:02 PM, July 17, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh, I don't know . . .

I am more likely to purchase a game branded by someone I respect, as in the case of Tim Schaffer and Psychonauts.

Or American McGee -- I associate a certain degree of dark humor with his stuff.

But publishers?

Er . . . not usually.

10:19 PM, July 21, 2005  
Anonymous david freeman said...

For the record, the USC Game Deconstruction Group was founded by 3 people: Chris Swain, co-chair of the USC Game Innovation Lab; Joseph Olin, and myself. (I'm David Freeman, and instead of decribing my work, I'll just give my website:

David Jaffe and a bunch of his colleagues were kind enough to join us one evening and speak about God of War. He and the group were very candid, very forthcoming, and very generous with their time and insights.

One thing not reported widely is how hard David Jaffe and others worked when making the game. Over the years it was in development, I'd bump into him here or there and suggest maybe a lunch or dinner to catch up. But he was always busy -- working on the game.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he did, and what his entire team did.

The USC Deconstruction Group began because I as too busy to play all the games I wanted. I'd hire guys in college or just out to play games and put in a couople dozen save points. Then I'd sit down with them for 3 hours and go through the game.

I was speaking with Chris Swain one day and he thought that was a good idea -- but why not have the USC game grads and undergrads demo the games? Then we called Joseph Olin and he was immediately on board.

And now the group gets together every month and a half or so, with usually about 25 to 35 people attending, although sometimes we have more. Usually we meet at USC, but sometimes various developers or publishers host us -- Pandemic, Naughty Dog, Luxoflux, EA...

If someone is reading this and would like to attend, they can send me an email at That being said, we tend to invite people who are pretty senior in the business -- Creative Directors, Lead Designers, Game Directors, Executive Producers, Producers, stuio heads and VPs, lead artists, technical directors, CTOs, and Lead Programmers...

But these people can invite one other, so that mixes it up a bit. you know! We're sort of underground, but just for the sake of cuirosity I googled the Deconstruction Group and was led here.

By the way, if you're going the 2006 GDC, I'll be speaking on the integration of emotion and gameplay in Half-Life 2, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus. Please come up and say hi.

David Freeman
(310) 394-0361

6:30 AM, February 24, 2006  
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1:13 PM, April 26, 2006  

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