It’s often gratifying as a gamer to hear that developers do listen to the complaints we have against their games. As small as we can sometimes feel against the pull of design committees, release dates and budget crunches, having a developer say that he’s heard our opinions and is taking them into serious consideration feels like a victory well deserved.
One of the games that has come out in the past couple of years that has seen the most amount of griping by the community at large is Assassin’s Creed. While the game found almost universal acceptance among its players, there were still a few points of contention which people felt needed to be addressed for the inevitable sequel. Things like the repetitive nature of the side missions and the over-all sameness of the actual assassinations were among the biggest criticisms raised against the game.
This is where the conversation with the game’s developer springs up. It’s not as literal as sitting down at a table with the design staff and reading off a list of grievances and what you would have done differently, but it can sometimes have the same effect. The best part is that when developers listen and change things, they’ll sometimes try to get us to differ our views by making us take a harder look at the tropes we’ve come to expect from games.
Take for example the collectible flags from the first Assassin’s Creed. There were hundreds of those damnable things, but they yielded no in-game rewards for picking them all up. Well, to hear Patrice Desilets, creative director on both Assassin’s Creed games, tell it, that was part of his dialogue to the player. He says that he doesn’t quite understand the need for collectibles in games, so offering no rewards for hours of flag hunting was his way of making the player examine the necessity of random collectibles.
Of course, it’s debatable whether this is an effective method of trying to change people’s minds about the accepted standards of video games, but it’s an interesting way to make your opinion heard as a developer.
This is a new method for designing games, one that I feel I can get behind. Like all burgeoning ideas, this one takes a little refinement, but Patrice seems to have a good grasp on where he should change his opinions about the games he makes and where he feels the need to stand his ground. With the internet being the powerful communications tool that it is, gamers can make their voices heard to developers all over the world. The only problem is sifting the good ideas from the chaff, but if you look hard enough, the real gems do tend to stick out.
All this talk about the metaphorical conversations between game developers and their audience has got me thinking. If you guys could sit down with a developer that has shown promise but has under-delivered on their games, who would it be and what would you say to them? Which game franchises do you think could benefit from a little more gamer feedback?