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Letters To The Editor: 'Character, Console Indies, Patents'

Gamasutra's new Letters to the Editor round-up has reactions and response to building better player characters, whether console manufacturers really do want indie support, and why the indus
Gamasutra has recently had further interesting feedback to some of our notable features and opinion pieces, as collected through our Letters to the Editor, so here's the latest roundup, with some of the reactions you might have missed. Click through on each link (free reg. req.) for the full Letter. Ben Schneider's feature, entitled The Everyman and the Action Hero: Building a Better Player Character managed to generate some feedback. Bart Stewart wrote in wondering just how widely applicable Schneider's hints at creating "vibrant, real, and memorable" characters really were: "The points made about heroic protagonists were most applicable to single-player games. In a single-player game, there's no problem with your doing heroic things -- in fact, it's generally expected. The only question is whether you start out as a hero or become one. But what about MMORPGs? It's a relatively old question but it has yet to be answered well: How can every player be or become a hero in a world of tens of thousands of players? This question is especially troublesome for the Everyman protagonist. The Campbellian hero's journey is about the person who returns from a life-changing experience to bring a unique boon to his or her former world. Well, how's a player to feel uniquely heroic in our current MMORPGs when the ascent to heroism means hitting the exact same level cap in the exact same character class as hundreds of thousands of other people?" Schneider's feature struck a chord with John Rose, as well, who wrote in to say: "I agree that as game designers we must make some concessions regarding the strong character development found in literature and film. However, the author also pleads for a call to action to shed the clichés of past games and improve our story-telling. The time has come when princesses are disappointing love interests and dark overlords are ineffective villains. The classics definitely show us how long our industry has to go. I am also pleased by the author's strong stance on designer-developed characters and their superiority over those created by players. While customization can be a very fun part of the experience, there's no reason to dilute our already limited amount of story-telling. And the everyman/action hero dichotomy could be one of the most important concessions to our stories, granting us the best part of a tired cliché and augmenting it with game-play." Our opinion piece on Why Indies Can't Thrive On Consoles also generated feedback, with reader J. Spartan expressing some doubt that console makers were serious about supporting independent developers in the first place: "I don't think the big three game console companies actually want indies to exist on the same playing field at all - they want to keep the lions share of the market. This has been a view that I've held for some time, and as the indie market has started to mature, and technology has allowed us to be able to produce and sell our games direct online, I can think of a number of things that have backed up that impression. Both Sony and Nintendo, the traditional console-only platforms, have for a long time made it very hard for a true indie to produce games on their machines. That has been the nature of console gaming most of the time; it's big corporate companies that make games on consoles due to the hardware and legal set up around console development. Two guys in a bedroom never made a console game without having to sell their souls first, so to speak." Finally, our recent feature from S. Gregory Boyd and Matthew Moersfelder addressing the continuing controversy over the use of patents in the game industry generated some strong feedback. James Everett wrote a response saying, in part: "If Spielberg woke up one morning and decided to patent the dolly shot he'd be laughed out of film. Game designers constantly build on what came before. We work in a high pressure, rapid turnaround environment where worrying about stepping on a patent could stifle production at critical moments. We don't duplicate the designs of others, we modify, expand, and sometimes improve on them. Even if a game copies the exact mechanic found in another title it is still second to market and has lost the first mover advantage. By the time a patent is actually granted (as the authors of the article admit, it can take a few years) the original game is in the bargain bin and anybody who has 'infringed' on the patent is probably there as well. Industry has moved on, something new is always just around the corner. Heck, the team responsible for creating the game will have been long disbanded. The last thing an independent studio needs is to get slapped with a patent lawsuit a few years after they released the title." For more reactions to other recent features such as David Hayward's Uncanny AI: Artificial Intelligence In The Uncanny Valley to be read and responded to, visit our letters page.

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