DICE 2011: AIAS Hall of Famers Talk Industry Change

Tonight's DICE Summit keynote comprised a panel featuring five winners of the AIAS' Hall of Fame award, each of whom had some different perspectives on the rapid changes affecting the industry.
For the first time in the gathering's 10-year history, tonight's D.I.C.E. Summit keynote kicking off the Las Vegas-based executive summit comprised a panel featuring five winners of the AIAS' Hall of Fame award, each of whom had some different perspectives on the rapid changes affecting the industry. Kicking off the Gamasutra-attended panel, Cerny Games founder Mark Cerny (Marble Madness) saw the increasing speed of code iteration as one of the most important changes in the industry over the years, admiring how far we've come since the '70s, where developing a game meant soldering chips and hand typing opcodes. But he still saw room for improvement in the console game development cycle he still focuses on. “I'm kind of jealous of [Zynga consultant] Bruce [Shelley] here,” Cerny said. “Development there is so fast that he can get an entire game made faster that we can get a lawyer assigned to work on the contract.” Shelley, a veteran strategy game designer before joining with Zynga, said FrontierVille was the game that really showed him the potential for the social space, and how it could be used for truly engaging experiences with rich stories and gameplay. And while Shelley sees the need for social game to expand to genres outside of “building stuff,” he said he doesn't think social games need to involve more direct competition to evolve. “I don't think everything has got to be in every box,” he said. “It's important that we provide different experiences. … If you want PvP there are MMOs that focus on it. If you want to work together and do more things as a team, other MMOs let you do that. I don't think every game has to do all that.” Shelley also took issue with the suggestion that Zynga's social game design might put the business model ahead of the gameplay model. “I didn't feel like money was driving it, and I didn't feel like game design was driving it either. … We're making commercial art, not fine art, right?” he said. For his part, BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka said he admired the way games have become so accessible and easy to play for the masses in recent years. He looked back on the days of struggling with faulty tape drives to play Scott Adams' Pirate Adventure, and marveled at how much easier it was to simply download a game to an iPhone during a bus journey today. Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime agreed that the industry's most exciting recent development was the growth of the mobile phone as a viable platform, and the ability of games like Words with Friends to allow players to make an easy connection with people they already know. “I play with friends who are out of town and I don't get to talk to much, so we have this daily interaction,” he said. “For me, playing with people you know always deepens the relationship.” Morhaime also noted the ability of smaller teams to create viable games in the indsutry as a “really positive healthy thing.” That sentiment was echoed by Cerny, who focused on thatgamecompany's Flower as an example of a game that's aggressively different, but not so different that it's unsellable. “[Thatgamecompany's] Kellee [Santiago] and Jenova [Chen] have mastered the art of the pitch, the ability to show what your're trying to do and say, 'Yes this is art, but it's commerce in that it will make enough money to pay for itself,'” he said. BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk instead focused on the larger console experience of Red Dead Redemption as “an example of how, even in this time of change, there's still opportunity for larger teams, larger studios to do something magnificent that … demonstrates games are really an art form.” But Zeschuk also noted developments like digital downloads and social and mobile games that have made the indsutry more accessible, saying these changes “might seem kind of big and scary from the inside, but this is what every form of entertainment has done as they enter the mass market.” Moderator Seth Schiesel of the New York Times used the panel as a chance to question Blizzard's Morhaime on the impending challenge from BioWare's Star Wars-themed MMO The Old Republic, a challenge that Morhaime said he welcomed. “We think it's actually good for the MMO genre for additional MMOs to come out that are actually fun and good to play,” he said. “I don't know that it really serves the genre really well when MMOs come out and have all sorts of problems and people leave in frustration. Hopefully people will try your game and find they're fans of the genre.”

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