Gamasutra Comments Of The Week: Horror, Ethics And Social Sliding

This week's best Gamasutra comments include a partial defense of Age of Empires' new direction and a response to criticisms of Bulletstorm's over-the-top violence from the project's lead designer.
[Every Friday, Gamasutra community manager Kyle Orland shares some of the most interesting and thought-provoking comments running on Gamasutra's news, features and blog posts, granting the winning commenter a prize from his box o' gaming swag.] Let's get right too it: Our first ever Comment of the Week prize goes to commenter Bart Stewart, who responded to the controversial, social-gaming-focused changes for Microsoft's next Age of Empires title by going against the crowd and defending the developers, to some extent:

With my gamer hat on, I'm with those who don't like the microtransactions model (and I think it's fair to consider the "boosters" to be a form of microtransaction). It guarantees a non-level playing field. But I'd like my fellow dissenters to switch their gamer hats to game designer hats for a minute. Consider: there are a lot more people playing the "casual" browser/social games than MMOs. It would be crazy for a major game developer to ignore that still-growing market space... and Microsoft have never been crazy. Furthermore, it's not crazy to enter the social game space with an adaptation of a known popular game. Not only can you sell that game from its predecessors, you can use the new game to help greenlight a new version of the original game. So the real problem is not that the franchise in question is AoE; nor is the question whether making a social game is a good idea. The problem is purely one of game design: how could a social version of AoE be designed so that it retains the appealing elements of the original game while making money in the social space that doesn't use the one-retail-sale model? A Premium edition and microtransactions are conventional answers to that design challenge. Well -- if we don't like that approach, what are some workable alternatives?
For his comment, Stewart wins an "It's On Like Donkey Kong" T-shirt, direct from Nintendo, as seen in the picture above. Honorable Mentions Responding to an interview with Dead Space creative director Wright Bagwell, commenter Mark Venturelli argues that a "horror atmosphere" isn't quite enough to create real terror in a player:

An "horror atmosphere" just creates tension. But games are participatory - if you want to really create a "horror" game, you need to create threat. The player must be in the position their character would be: afraid of what is ahead, and afraid to lose something that they value a lot. The only game that made me feel like that in recent years was Demon's Souls. "Horror" games like Fear and Dead Space try to be scary like movies are, and the cheap audiovisual tricks that they employ grow thin and wear out in the hours and hours of gameplay (which sometimes involves replaying "scary" parts). Of course I am not defending the ridiculous "bad controls" approach of the Resident Evil series. It's just a stupid, lazy design hack. What made the first games effective was resource management (even to save your games you needed resources!) and the constant feeling of insecurity, which was ruined in RE4 and 5 while still maintaining frustratingly bad controls.
In a massive thread on Richard Clark's examination of the ethics surrounding upcoming shooter Bulletstorm, People Can Fly lead designer Adrian Chmielarz responds to some of the criticisms leveled against the over-the-top title:

...You have all the right in the world to hate/despite Bulletstorm, and be vocal about it as much as you want - that's a given. If your idea of fighting games like this is to call a "silent boycott", sure, go ahead. It's a free country. The part where I don't agree is the "pre-teen boys" fragment. No, this game was not designed this way. It's a game for some of those people who love the blood ballet and the language of Kill Bill and other Tarantino movies, who find some of 4chan amusing (in that sense Jacek's parallel works very well), etc. I have co-designed this game for people with similar sensibilities to mine, and I am certainly not pre-teen anymore. And so is the creator of the dialogue, Rick Remender. Feel free to call us immature adults, but that's different to accusing us to trying to cater to "pre-teen boys". It's probably worth noting at this moment - although I am still scratching my head why are we dicussing a game none of you have played yet - that you can turn off both the foul language and the gore in the game. Anyway... I do believe this industry will only be considered mature only once it stops being ashamed of itself. There's a place here for everyone and every kind of game, stupid or smart, thought-provoking or bubble-gum. What is "immature" in your eyes certainly haven't hurt cinema or books ...and honestly, I can't say any better than Jim Sterling of Destructoid already did.
Jumping off a blog post about finding a job in the game industry, commenter Mathieu MarquisBolduc encourages job-seekers not to plant their feet:

My advice would be: be willing to relocate. ANYWHERE. I know very few people in this industry that had a long career without moving a few times. Unless you're born in one of the 3-4 biggest hubs, be ready to look anywhere in the world. Even if you are in one of the biggest hub, expanding your horizons can help your career. I moved ~7000 km for my first gaming job.
And finally, commenter Jim McGinley placed his tongue firmly in his cheek in deliberately breaking to Gamasutra's newly formalized comment submission guidelines (at least, we hope it was deliberate):

This post is stupid. Thinking about it, the Dreamcast was the best system ever. My fellow developers are dinks. My real name is Franky Sausage. Check it out!

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