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Blogged Out: Original Ideas, Chinese MMOs, Wild West Games

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 we look at ...
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 we look at the difficulty of being creative, the law of Chinese gamers, and the Wild West. - First up this week is one of our favorite blog reads, the work of Brian "Psychochild" Green, who takes a few moments to comment on the recent chatter that emerged from Scott Miller's blog on the popular subject of licensed versus original IP. It's easy to be idealistic, but as Green points out, we can't all be gaming's answer to Da Vinci: "It's hard to be creative. If it were easy, everyone would create a few original IPs before breakfast and reap the rewards. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. People tend to forget how hard it is to do something they are good at. Programmers look with disdain at people who can't put together a simple C++ program. Writers tend to expect that everyone can string together words as easily as they can. Likewise, creative people tend to think that everyone can come up with something new and original." He's got a point there. We've all listened to that boring bloke at a party whose idea for a book is Lord of The Rings only with slightly bluer Hobbits, and we can’t really blame such people, because being genuinely original is tough. Green points to a parallel discussion on the blog of Mythic's Dave Rickey, who discusses paintings of dragons by way of illustrating the challenges in actually coming up with striking and original imagery for games. What is most important, Rickey argues, is the fantastic nature of a world that is made implicit in the details of that world. It is the finer touches, the nuances that imply the greater whole, which really make the great fantasy universes believable. That kind of artistic challenge is, all too often, an insurmountable challenge for less gifted creators. - Meanwhile massively multiplayer veteran Damion Schubert has kept regular updates on his Zen of Design blog, including some commentary on the recent legislative rumblings from developing scene of online games in mainland China. He asks some pointed questions: "Given that a lot of the gameplay of any MMO is socializing, will this really do much more than frontload the powerlevelling? Will this make the games more antisocial and less sticky? In Ultima Online, power hour did create an issue where players didn't want to waste time chatting with friends until power hour had concluded, for fear of wasting that precious time. If you were to enter the market with an MMO with little in the way of advancement (such as a Puzzle Pirates or The Sims Online-style game), would that be affected? Does it need to be?" All such things will only be answered in time, and the vigilance of those people reporting on the emerging Chinese games scene." But it's the first comment in that thread that asks the most important question: "What sort of reaction is this drawing from the players?" And that's something few news reports care to mention. - Finally Brett Douville ponders the lack of Wild West games in his regularly entertaining blog. There are so few games developed in that setting that it seems to pose a mystery. "Why is this?" asks Douville. "I'm not certain, but I think it's probably about the guns. Why play an action game with guns where the pistol only carries six shots and the machine gun has to be left in a fixed position? Also, a hip young friend of mine tells me that Westerns just aren't cool anymore. I certainly hope the film genre doesn't die out altogether, though Clint's gotten a little old to get out there riding horses, and I'm not aware of any other stars who could even revive the genre anymore. Whereas gracefully wielding a katana is eternally cool, as Kill Bill points out." We'd argue that cool is about context, not some eternal metaphysical quality - Kill Bill is only cool because of Tarantino's uncanny ability to bestride trends in popular culture, from Hong Kong Kung Fu to the rebranding of older, hipper music. What Wild West games need is a context in which they are cool again. Perhaps the lack of popular interest is because recent Westerns have been more about reality and brutality than the cool of lone, chiseled-jawed heroes. HBO's phenomenal Deadwood TV series is illustrative of this: would anyone dare to make a game about managing whorehouses and swearing? [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his progressive games journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times, to name but a few.]

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