A phrase I have heard a couple of times, I always smile when I do. My usual response is: "Of course I am, that's why you hired me... to get close to things and to evaluate them".
So how do you get "too close"?
I think that it's used as an excuse to attempt to dismiss an opinion when there isn't a good counter to the argument. As a Producer, and usually put into the position to evaluate products, I am required to know it inside and out. As a matter of fact, I have been chastised a few times for NOT being close enough to a product.
When I was at SEGA even as an Associate Producer I was given the veto power on products. I was expected to play the game and give my intelligent feedback. If I had not gotten "too close" to GunStar Heroes, the product would not have been picked up by SEGA and it wouldn't have won Game of the Year and who knows what would have happened to the developer Treasure.
But how do you get close to it? Obviously the simple answer is to just play it. But I think you also have to play games LIKE the one you're evaling. What does this game bring to the table that changes the course of the genre, even if only slightly.
Someone once said, that you have to give the consumer something that is vastly superior to what they are already using to get them to switch. Maybe one of my readers can suggest who said that so I can give him credit where its due. The comment is very true in games.
Products to me must "move the circle". Let me explain what I mean by that. Let's say that Tomb Raider is the best third person title selling. Make that a point on a piece of paper, and then make a circle around that point with it being in the center.
All games in that genre fit within that circle. If your game is too close to the center, it's a clone, if it's FAR outside of the circle then you're asking the consumer to learn too much.
What you want to hit is the line of that circle. So that some parts of your game are known, but some parts are new and innovative.
So get close to your games and lets see where they hit in the circle. Don't go for a clone, hit the LINE!
[Read more of my blog posts at: http://aboutmakinggames.blogspot.com/]