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CliffyB Speaks Out

March 2, 2013

Lord Farquaad
CliffyB has a blog and recently wrote two really interesting posts: Nickles, dimes, and quarters, and The Problem with Sequels. He makes solid points in both articles:

…it blows my mind that somehow gamers don’t seem to get that Valve is a business, just like any other, and when Valve charges 100$ for an engagement ring in Team Fortress 2 it’s somehow “cool” yet when EA wants to sell something similar it’s seen as “evil.” Yes, guys, I hate to break it to you, as awesome as Valve is they’re also a company that seeks to make as much money as possible.

They’re just way better at their image control.

…No one seemed too upset at Blizzard when you could buy a pet in World of Warcraft – a game that you had to buy that was charging a monthly fee. (How dare console games have steady cycles of buyable DLC!) When I was a child and the Ultimate Nintendo Fanboy I spent every time I earned from my paper route on anything Nintendo. Nintendo Cereal. Action figures. Posters. Nintendo Power. Why? Because I loved what Nintendo meant to me and I wanted them to keep bringing me more of this magic.   Nickles, dimes, and quarters

As for his article on sequels, I get the feeling that he is still thinking about what didn’t go right with the Gears franchise.

HARDCORE USERS claim they want the SAME EXACT GAME, only with upgraded graphics. Never mind the fact that one of the things they loved about the original was the clarity of experience, the clean, simple lines, the lack of business in the environment. Ignore the fact that you could have done that with some more DLC to keep their experience new and fresh. (That’s “nickel and diming” them.)

THE PRESS’s #1 question to any developer? “What’s new?” Their #2 question? “What’s changed?” And wait for it, because #3 is coming “How are you going to keep fans of the original happy?”

By and large these are conflicting goals. Making a sequel is an attempt to balance all of that.

I understand the challenges he faced with the Gears sequels, and upon reading his post, I am convinced that the question developers must ask themselves when attempting a sequel is not “How can we make this bigger and better?” or “How are we going to address the press’s three questions?”, but “What is the core experience that has our fans loving our game and how can we support and grow that community in the future?”  While this is a simple question, the answer to the first part of the question may be very illusive.  It may not reveal itself until too late (i.e., after the sequel has already been made).  In the TV industry for example, writers/producers often unwittingly eliminate the most important character in their show, only to realize their grave mistake after the fact.

To the second half of the question, Cliffy’s answer, like the nose on his face, is right there in front of him.  He states (in the first article) that developers want gamers to keep their game in the tray as long as possible. The way you do that is not only through DLC, but through support of the community, and ultimately, giving the community the opportunity to help create future experiences via tools, and fan site support.  I still think that our weekend sessions and write-ups were (and remain to this day) unparalleled in community gaming.  People would happen by the site, and want to be a part of it.  If we also had tools to make our own maps, to tweak gameplay, and to create new gametypes, we would have done so and most certainly would still be playing.  Does that mean we wouldn’t be spending any money on the game?  Absolutely not.  Valve continues to prove this daily, and Gabe himself said that they cannot possibly keep up with the content created by the communities.  All they need to do is support willingly productive communities and make money hand over fist.

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One Comment
  1. March 3, 2013 12:32 pm

    When you capture lightning in a bottle, give me a graphical update years later. I’m fine with chargeable DLC so long as it’s quality.

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