Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
18 April 2006
Sid Meier on Nintendo Revolution
Ok, this is from 1997 and Sid Meier wasn't actually talking about the Nintendo Revolution, but I think he might have been onto something. First read what Meier said :
NG: What advice would you give to new game designers?

SM: It's always fascinated me how we can do very, very difficult things on a computer that don't impress people, and then we can do things that are very, very easy to do on a computer and they do impress people. There's not necessarily a correlation between how much work you put into something and how much it impresses people. [...]

So my rule is to think about how much work you have to put into something and how much it will impress not another programmer, but a gamer on the street. They're the ones you have to impress.
-- Sid Meier, Interview, Next Generation, July 1997
We now all know that Nintendo has removed itself from the traditional console race. When the Revolution specs are officially revealed, there will be gnashing of teeth and rending of flesh, for they will sound modest in comparison to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I'm confident Nintendo weren't thinking of Meier's 1997 interview in this dead tree publication when they came up with their new business model, but I do think they've come to some of the same conclusions.

The trajectory that Sony and Microsoft are taking may well be a dead end. I've been off the "HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THOSE GRAPHICS" bandwagon for a while. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if most consumers are similarly numb to increasing graphical complexity. Same goes for sound and physics: realistically falling stacks of crates with accurately modeled reverberations and photorealistic textures are entertaining for only so long.

Meier would say, "I told you so."

With its Revolution, Nintendo has left developers with no choice but to focus on engaging the player. Sure, the graphics will be a step above what can be done with the GameCube now, but the focus is clearly elsewhere. A developer has to look at the rest of the system, away from graphics and sound, and in particular to the network and the controller.

The internet is one giant example of "simple things that impress people". People are still going ga-ga for podcasts, for crying out loud. Most of us realize that they're just audio files you can download, but slap a funny name on them and piggyback on iTunes and suddenly people can't get enough of them. How about dirty pictures? There's a 19th century technology that's had a revival of sorts thanks to digital cameras and fast internet connections. For its own part, Nintendo has already done a far better job with a networked handheld than Sony, and I expect comparable service when the Revolution comes.

And then there's that spatial-gimmick controller. I, for one, am eager for something other than the already-worn-out first-person shooter example. Thinking along the lines of "simple but impressive", even an atrophied brain like mine can come up with things I'd like to try. How about a program that allows you to sculpt a three-dimensional object using the controller? Or a Barbie game that allows a player to apply make-up to a virtual face? And I bet more than one teenager would get a kick out of a virtual drum set. Now, let real designers loose with the Revolution, and it's quite likely we'll see ideas so simple, yet compelling, that no one's going to notice that the polygon count is a tad low and the physics are pretty much nonexistent.

Let me close with one other quote from that same interview with Sid Meier, one that I think goes right along with Nintendo's Revolution:
[W]e know that [the] magic ingredient is interactivity. But we have to concentrate on this. I tell designers "Don't try and do better graphics than movies because you're always going to lose. Don't try to do better sound than what you can get on CDs, because that's not what we're good at. What we're good at is interactivity -- so make your product win, lose, stand, or fall based on its interactive content."
-- Sid Meier, Interview, Next Generation, July 1997


--Matt Matthews at 21:24
Comment [ 4 ]

Comments on this post:

I just want a revolution version of Spore.

I could see myself being completely absorbed in my little universe for an ungodly amount of time.

I think the FPS genre is being mentioned a lot as a genre, because for the first time, it might be even easier to control games in first person (notice the lack of shooter) than on any other platform.

Just because a game is in the first person doesn't mean it needs guns. Take for instance the early psone first person platform game Jumping Flash.

I think we might see a lot of games that generally play in the third person have a first person mode too (like tomb raider has now, for instance)

My wet dream for the system is a game creation kit though. Where multiple people join the same virtual canvas, and the one person starts building the level, by sculpting with primitives etc. The other person starts building models, another person tweaks settings, and control mechanisms.

I imagine having a camera attachment for the revolution controller and being able to walk up to something and sample it's texture, to be able to paint it on models.

I would also like to see a new version of Rez, with even more interactive psychedelic lightshows.

I'm off to go play Brain Age =P

By Anonymous Adrian, at 19 April, 2006 02:00  

I really go back and forth on the Revolution controller. Yes, it can be cool. For something like a fishing game or even sculpting, it will give you a very different experience. But, let's be honest, fishing controllers have been around, but they don't sell. Why? I know extra's don't sell well, but if it was that great of an experience, people would get them. So, this could be a good idea, but I wonder how it will work out.

Plus, Nintendo has a facination with forcing you to buy more and more to get everything out of your game (just look at Animal Crossing, to get everything would cost you hundreds between a GBA, E Reader, cards, etc). I think this rubs many gamers the wrong way.

Plus, unless you are owned by Nintendo, you aren't forced to find inventive ways to make your game stand out. You can just make a game for the other 2 systems. I just can't see Capcom releasing a RE4 type game for the Revolution, they will just make it for the PS3.

Overall, I expect some interesting games from them (especially the eventual Zelda, Mario, Metroid, and DK interpretations). But, will the Revolution sell half the systems of either the PS3 or the Xbox 360, I'm not convinced.

By Blogger lordxixor101, at 19 April, 2006 10:35  

"With its Revolution, Nintendo has left developers with no choice but to focus on engaging the player."

Not really true, as developers have another choice. One which they've used since the N64 when it comes to Nintendo consoles.

They can choose to make their games for a much more popular system instead. Or even the Xbox, if they for some reason don't want to deal with Sony or the PS3.

By Anonymous Baines, at 23 April, 2006 02:43  

Point taken, Baines. It is true that developers need not develop for the Revolution at all. I believe what I intended was: "IF YOU ARE GOING TO DEVELOP FOR THE REVOLUTION then you have to focus on the player and leave graphics out of it."

But you are quite right: many will take the easy (i.e. known) road and develop on the Xbox 360 or PS3.

By Blogger jvm, at 23 April, 2006 03:18  

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