Gamers, rejoice: the ‘internet is the enemy’ of communication

I am starting to wonder if the landscape of games is ever going to change. The time is coming when developers no longer use the internet to promote and discuss games. Instead, they’ll use the …

I am starting to wonder if the landscape of games is ever going to change. The time is coming when developers no longer use the internet to promote and discuss games. Instead, they’ll use the internet to market and discuss new games.

I first noticed this two years ago. It happened to a development team with a non-traditional studio. Their game had just received a 12-hour support update that met all their need for things like specific weather conditions, taking background detailed maps, and made the game playable at all times with no network latency issues (note that it isn’t widely understood just how much advantage Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo gain when they make rain in controller shots).

In the latest chapter of this dystopia, I now have a team working on a game where they have the option to develop solely in-house, but which has no publicity, production, or multiplayer resources.

I suspect it is a form of self-enforced segregation, because development is hard, and figuring out what kind of player makes the most sense (and the most effective means of communication) when developing a game isn’t always an obvious decision.

But what is difficult is also what will, if only in degree, make a massive difference in the way that games are sold. In the past, development was largely focused on feedback, and the game designer could tailor the games that eventually saw the light of day, shifting the artistic constraints in order to create a more general-purpose experience with a wide range of nuances.

In the near future, however, development will be more about crowd control. Everyone who wants to make a game will use online gaming services like Evernote and sayin mode. But nobody wants to create a game that is too complicated, and won’t fulfil a niche market.

Will every game be designed with multiple touchpoints so that “just like” this one is easily bought and pre-ordered? Will the space-covering tentacle have to be hidden at the bottom of the ocean in order to satisfy the niche market for “crystal, orgalatic dungeons”?

We don’t know how it’s going to play out, yet, but it would be interesting to see a wave of games that are driven by the sole motivation of development, rather than selling through the natural marketplace based on awareness and marketing.

Nintendo is making a big deal of their “Switch Online” service that they are hoping is the next generation of multiplayer/social tools to feature.

I have tried to ensure that no one on my team forgets that unless we are flying by the seat of our pants, games as a whole still rely heavily on a world of feedback and community – we’re still playing Mass Effect 2 together – not just on a physical platform where it’s your own game and only your game. But on console these days, the ability to design games in a really wide variety of ways is so much more present, that what the community makes of it is less of a priority.

At a time when there are far more options and potential for virtual/video collaboration than ever before, people have really re-energised their interest in gaming. It’s not uncommon for groups of people to sign up for multiple different gaming services simultaneously. I suspect that within games there will be a rise in cooperation and a general move away from competition, with new services emerging to support this sort of collective play.

Nintendo wants to be like this. Sony wants to be like this. Microsoft wants to be like this. If publishers and hardware makers can successfully become platforms upon which this sort of collective play happens within a family of services and various partners – where it’s mutually beneficial for players and third parties alike – then this change is a huge opportunity.

This is just a thought experiment at this point in time, and it won’t be like this when the mainstream console start to discover the non-linear nature of this new world.

But if these, and more services come together so well, we might be looking at a way in which shared play really can increase the quality of a game.

The Pixelated Pleasures of ‘Eastward’ by Jongmin in Crowd Control Development 📨 — joonhoon (@joonhoon) September 3, 2018

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