Monday, June 15, 2015

Don't Dream It; Be It

Fallout 4, the latest in a wildly-popular post-apocalypse video game series was recently announced. Bethesda, the production studio in charge of the property recently demonstrated some of the new features of the game at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, affectionately known as E3. Included in the new features is a detailed crafting system that reminds me of a few of the off-brand voxel-type games we've seen crop up since New Vegas was released. Think Rust or Planet Explorers or even Kerbal. Now, the Fallout series has always had some crafting in it, but it's usually just re-purposing junk to make stimpacks or a pressurized air gun that shoots teddy bears and baseballs at marauders. This new title will allow you to build houses, fortified bases, even entire villages from scrap materials scattered around the wasteland. For anyone who picked up the build-your-own-house DLC in Skyrim, the prospect of homesteading in a big ol' themed sandbox world could well sound like a heck of a lot of fun.

I'm not the only one to think so, evidently.
For those of you who don't already know her, the author of that tweet is something of a controversial figure among video game enthusiasts. Reaction to this remark on Twitter was predictably swift and gangrenous. Which is a pity, since Ms. Sarkeesian offers a relatively simple market test: make it.

Create a game without violence as a core gameplay feature. If the game appeals to enough people, you'll make a fortune and be proven correct all in one fell swoop.

Of course, making a game is a risky, expensive, tedious process. Tripe-A titles have eight-figure budgets, putting them below summer blockbusters, but that that far below. Sinking $30 million into a project means giving your customers what they want. You'd better be sure you know what your customers want.

That's the contention though: the customers just should want something different. The question is then how to convince them that 360 no-scoping a Super Mutant isn't as fun as establishing farming colonies and securing trade routes around a bombed-out Boston? Hectoring folks could be one way. Another is to build a better mousetrap.

Still another is the Minecraft route. In Minecraft, you can set the game to "peaceful," which prevents hostile mobs from spawning. If you can turn off enemies in Fallout 4, it'd be more like a grimdark 50s era post-nuke sandbox simulator. Build yourself a nice little rust fort and snuggle in for the nuclear winter.

For the world of entertainment to be more euvoluntary, more inclusive, it's worth thinking about the lowest-cost ways to please the most customers. Open-world, sandbox style games have the decided advantage that many of the parameters of the game are just that: parameters, and they can be adjusted simply. Just let players access the settings. If you want to focus on animal husbandry, go ahead. If you want to kill deathclaws, go ahead. We can each enjoy the game as we see fit. Everyone wins.

And isn't that the beauty of free people transacting as they see fit? My pleasure does not come at the expense of yours, nor yours mine?

I have to admit. I am fairly excited about this title. The custom power armor looks to be quite an improvement over the slim scavenging we had in New Vegas.

1 comment:

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