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Blogged Out: 'Difficulty Setting'

In his latest 'Blogged Out' column, veteran UK writer Jim Rossignol takes a look at the world of developer blogging with some thoughts about difficult games, physics, and why developers have come out in such strong support of the Wii.
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week: Rog Of Rods, EA's CEO, and ye olde Costik. Chassis Bender Good day, Gamasutrans. You know there's not a day goes by that I don't marvel at some new game physics, but few demonstrations of mathematical prowess are as convincing as the one-man hobby project Rig Of Rods. It's a simply vehicular game which uses clever particle systems to deliver some of the most impress motion physics I've ever seen. I know that you're interested in such things, so head over to the blog and perhaps put this man to use making us a next generation of vehicle games – perhaps ones where we drive trucks through shopping malls. It must be time for a spiritual successor to Blast Corps by now, don't you agree? Harder and Harder A number of my journalistic colleagues reacted with guffaws when they heard about EA's CEO John Riccitiello slating yearly updates in the Wall Street Journal. Of course they've good reason to suggest that EA might be rather more guilty than most in this regard, but I think the resulting comment missed Riccitiello's rather more valid point, which was this: “"We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play." He's dead right. Games are generally too hard to play. Spider-Man 3 was on such culprit. This should have been a game for everyone. Instead of being a totally pop game defined by accessibility and easy of play, it immediately bombarded you with instructions, and seemed to want to use all the buttons on the controller just because it could. That meant that web-slinging, the one easy thing in the game, became its sole joy. Now that does mean I think all games should be easy or accessible (I do play Eve Online obsessively) but the most mainstream of games should be if we want the medium to be accessible to everyone. Not everyone feels like they can sit down and watch The Seventh Seal, but everyone feels like they can watching an Indiana Jones film. Our mainstream, like Hollywood, should be aiming to make games that everyone feels comfortable with, whether they're too easy for the hardcore, or too populist for the fanboys. Wii Money Finally Costik has been analysing the analysts in looking at why developers seem to favour the Wii. “The question (not clear from the article) is why Sebastian thinks this favors Wii over other platforms; my impression is that he's saying development costs are lower for the Wii. That's probably true, if only because it's comparatively under-powered, and therefore you don't need as complex and detailed graphic assets as you do for Xbox 360 and PS3. But if you're making that argument, the retail dynamics are irrelevant, because the retail dynamics are basically the same for all three platforms--same retail discount structure, same basic cost of goods, comparable platform royalties. The only advantage Wii could have in this scenario is development cost.” From a rather different angle I can't help wondering whether many Wii projects have been underwritten simply because developers want to try something new, and want to see if they can make the Wii work for them. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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