Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
01 November 2006
Missing from games: killer authenticity!
Today's podcast reveals the missing ingredient in today's videogame development: authenticity. Let's roll the transcript where Bethesda's Pete Hines explains why their new game, Rogue Warrior, will be more authentic.
Gary Whitta: You're talking about the authenticity that [Richard (Dick) Marcinko] is going to bring to the franchise. And the way you describe it almost sounds like a Tom Clancy type arrangement. Am I right anticipating that gameplay-wise this is kind of going to sit closer on the scale to games like Rainbox Six and Ghost Recon to the more run-and-gun Far Cry type game?

Pete Hines: Here's the difference. Tom Clancy didn't ever shoot anybody, and he was never shot at, and his life was never in danger in terms of what he did for a living. The guy that we're working with is the guy who went behind enemy lines, who killed people for a living, who taught people he worked with to kill people, and do it in unconventional ways, who would sneak behind enemy lines, and wear the clothes of his enemy, and wear the shoes of his enemy, and use the weapons of his enemy, in order to be better at killing them.

So there's a difference between bringing a guy like that in to work with devs who say "Yeah, you know what? SEALs don't hold weapons like that, and here's why. Here's how we reload stuff. And here's how SEALs move and crouch and when you're doing your AI SEALs would never get like this next to each other because of this reason."

So it's a different level of expertise in terms of how do you know what it is you know. Do you know it because somebody else told you? Or do you know it because you spent your whole life being the best at finding and killing the enemy. And so I think that's what Dick brings to us.
I really couldn't agree more. Most people who play the crap games with Clancy's name attached can't help but think "This is a game full of little girly-men made by little girly-men for a bunch of little girly-men." It's a shameful fact that, in spite being developed in collaboration with someone who's never killed, those trashy Clancy games continue to sell well.

However, I think Hines is missing his own point. Has it not occurred to him that his own game, Rogue Warrior, still won't be truly authentic? I mean, I realize he's getting the real deal from Marcinko. Good for you, Pete! However, I am not getting something authentic. Is Marcinko telling me about killing? No! Instead the developers at Bethesda are telling me things that they were told by Marcinko. That's not even close to authentic. It's almost like that Clancy clown all over again.

So, I hope that Bethesda developers, artists, and even some QA testers will all become Rogue Warrior-type killers. First, have Marcinko train you for a few months. Then arrange a company trip somewhere to try out your new skills. I suggest slipping into an Axis of Evil country, taking some enemy shoes and a weapon, and then use them (shoes or weapon, doesn't matter) to kill a few people in unconventional ways.

When you've felt the hot blood of another man running down your arm, felt his frantic struggle for life, his death rattle, and his dead weight falling to the ground at your feet -- then I want you to come back and make a truly authentic game about it. Teach me everything you learned. I want a pixel shader that perfectly captures the look of eyes on a corpse. I want to feel the post-kill jitters through the Xbox 360 controller's force-feedback. If you could make simulated blood spray out of my TV and onto my face when I pull the trigger, that'd seal the deal.

Make me say: That's authenticity!
--Matt Matthews at 20:32
Comment [ 7 ]

Comments on this post:

You hit the nail on the head with that one. If anything should give the games industry a bad name it's not Hot Coffee, or Warm Tea, but attitudes like the one displayed by Mr. Hines.

By Anonymous Christophe, at 01 November, 2006 22:52  

Bethesda is presumably creating the initial scenarios, which then are tweaked by Marcinko, then those tweaks are implemented by Bethesda. Which is pretty much just putting bandages on problems. (Games, TV, movies, books, all suffer from this.) Clancy might even have an advantage in comparison. (The problem I see with Clancy games and Clancy movies is that Clancy has so little to do with the final product.)

One thing I've always wonder though is why do companies tend to hire only one consultant, or sometimes hire a group of related (friends, teammates) consultants? Even when you've got one person with "real" knowledge, he is still just one person. If you really care, hire two or three consultants that might disagree with each other, as well as catch things the others miss. And then pay them to help design things as well.

Then again, the results will still be flawed, and people will either wonder why you bothered, or why you missed "obvious" issues.

By Anonymous Baines, at 02 November, 2006 00:53  

Tom Clancy is extremely not involved in the Ubisoft games that bear his moniker (he gets a sign-off, and owns the brands, that's about it). The Splinter Cell series was created and plotted by J.T. Petty at Ubisoft.

The Ghost Recon series on the other hand is well known for having a large team of former military types on staff. You can certainly argue with the results of their labors, but claiming that they don't have any knowledge or experience of military tactics etc is ... ill-informed at best.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 02 November, 2006 15:13  

The result of the labors is probably still heavily influenced by the people coding the game and designing the gameplay.

Consultants aren't there to make it 100% authentic, they are there to make it "more" authentic than it actually is.

Take a TV show like House. It has a medical consultant to make sure the diseases are accurate. It is the trappings and contrivences of the show that make it so unrealistic. (Has to have multiple misdiagnosises to fill the run length, generally leads to some controversial cure, etc.)

Or Numbers, which has a math consultant. But it is still mainly written by people with only passing mathematical knowledge, and for a base audience that also has only passing knowledge.

By Anonymous Baines, at 02 November, 2006 16:16  

Ugg...why is there this huge emphasis on "authenticity" in games these days? Mr. Hines hopefully remembers that he's making a game, not a military training simulator.

I suppose some folks find the authenticity adds to the fun. But to a point, of course. If military FPS games actually had human-accurate running speeds and endurance levels, they'd start to suck pretty fast.

Which is why, as Baines has pointed out, Marcinko is merely a consultant here and not the game designer. The day an expert consultant gets me unecessarily killed in a game because "real SEALs don't crouch that quickly" is the day I realize monkeys have replaced good game designers.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 02 November, 2006 16:43  

I TA'd for a very small fellow who said, "The reason we have drama is because your [the students', but his and mine too, I suppose] lives are boring." As long as scary-bearded dude sticks to realistic depictions of the dramatic portions of being a SEAL (btw, Snake, catching and eating rats, crabs, and snakes ain't part of this), we'll all be fine.

Snake? SNAKE!!!

By Blogger rufbo, at 03 November, 2006 13:25  

Anyone can learn all they need to know about being a Seal by watching Behind Enemy Lines 2: Axis of Evil.

By Blogger patternjuggler, at 03 November, 2006 17:05  

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