Author Topic: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate  (Read 17427 times)

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Offline Petike

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Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« on: November 05, 2008, 06:16:35 am »
From the official Spore forums.

Quote from: MaxisLucy
Hi all. I wanted to weigh in on this thread. I appreciate the comments and the open discussion about the game, the look and everyoneís expectations. I think that this type of dialog is a healthy exchange of ideas. We get a lot out of it and Iím not interested in shutting that down. However, I do think that the aspersions toward any individual member of the Spore team are unwarranted and are getting out of hand here. The concept of Spore that Will presented at GDC 2005 was the guidepost for the development and execution of the game. Will very much remained the visionary and design leader throughout the development of Spore. He worked collaboratively with the team when opinions differed but decisions were definitely in his domain.

The cute vs. science debate within the team had more to do with the concept of accessibility, character and aesthetic than it had to do with the underlying gameplay. Some of this was driven by the simple reality of a very unique and rather cutting edge approach to animation. Procedural animation is just one of the incredible contributions that Chris Hecker made to this game. It was a huge area of focused work and learning for us as the animation engineering team developed this system. One thing that we learned is that setting an expectation of very realistic looking animations that, for instance, captured the discrete differences of movement of a cat vs. the movement of a dog would be off target. Moving away from an aesthetic that set such expectations was a well considered decision on our part. Iím personally amazed at what the animation team was able to achieve. Will set a goal for the team that we be able to hit a mark, in terms of creative breadth, that reached from Pixar to Geiger. The aesthetic, physical and placement constraint decisions that we made regarding the Creature Creator were held to our tenets of unconstrained creativity and accessibility for the creators.

Chris contributed so much in the way of innovations for Spore and deserves to be recognized for his work. While we have no interest in stifling conversation on the Sporum about Spore from anyone, I request that people show respect for others and refrain from outright defamation and threats.

Thanks,

Lucy

Quote from: MaxisWill
Iíve just recently tuned into this thread on the forums. I usually try to keep more up to date but Iíve been traveling way too much lately. Wow, thereís some rather intense discussion here I see about the design decisions we made in Spore. I think itís really important for me to jump in and clarify a few things from my point of view.

First let me say a few things about the ďCuteĒ vs. ďScienceĒ perspectives in Spore. It is true that during most of the design process we had team members on different sides of this debate. While I was officially on the science side at the same time I always saw this as a crucial tension that I wanted to foster, in other words I didnít want the science side to win, I wanted to make sure both sides were represented in the game to some degree.

Two of the Chrisí on our team (Chris Trottier and Chris Hecker) were the most vocal representatives of what I started calling the cute team but they were by no means the only ones, they represented quite a large portion of the team. And their agenda in our design process was most certainly not to dumb-down the gameplay but rather to foster emotional engagement with the players in the game experience. An early example of this was the decision to add eyes to the cell game which in no way changed the gameplay, but we found for certain players made the cell experience more humorous and personal.

I see that many of the criticisms about the depth of play in Spore seem to be personally directed to Chris Hecker in particular. This is both ironic and incorrect. Chris was the leading talent behind the voodoo math of the procedural animation system in Spore, the system that brings the creatures you design to life. As the author of this system Chris was quite aware of how flexible and also how unpredictable it could be. I had many discussions with him in particular about how much of the players design decisions would affect the actual performance of your creature in the game world.

To take a quick tangent let me use the creature design vs. performance as an example. We had competing issues to face. First, we wanted the creatureís design to impact its in-game performance. Second, we wanted the economics of the editor to be simple and understandable and connected to performance. Third, we wanted a high amount of aesthetic diversity. We didnít want there to be one ultimate design direction that the simulator was forcing all the creatures into. In other words if to be fast you had to have long legs that would have met the first goal, conflicted with the third goal and made the second much more complex.

As the lead designer my goal through most of the project was to make sure the gameplay didnít end up too complex, which resulted in simplifying many of the level dynamics and editor consequences. I felt like we were already asking quite a bit from the players as we took them through the various level genres. This was totally my judgment call and not even part of the agenda of the ďcuteĒ team, and certainly not the fault of Chris Hecker. So to make a long story short Iím the one to be blamed for any faults in the gameplay, thatís my job on the team.

Chris is one of the most talented people Iíve ever had the pleasure to work with in the game industry and he takes his craft quite seriously. So itís been very disturbing for me to read how he has been unfairly vilified for what were in fact entirely my design decisions.

A genre-spanning game like Spore is almost by its very nature experimental. Not only do we not have an existing game to learn design lessons from, we also donít initially know what the demographic of our players will be (and hence their expectations for complexity and depth). As we move forward with the franchise we plan to listen closely and learn. Our plans for the first Spore expansions are already revolving heavily around what weíre hearing from our players so far.

I want to personally thank everyone whoís playing Spore, especially for the countless, wonderful creations that have been posted to Sporepedia. And I also want to give thanks and encouragement for the discussions here on our forum that will help us make Spore a cooler experience for everyone.

-Will Wright



http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/210/8555.page


(I bolded the parts that directly speak against the popular rumors of the fandom.)
« Last Edit: November 05, 2008, 06:22:48 am by Petike »


Quote from: MasterChiToes in "Spore was dumbed down"
Maybe the Sporons are the ones that got dumbed down?  ;D

Offline DoggySpew

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2008, 06:28:01 am »
And this is why I love Maxis. They actually ANSWER to our concerns.

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Offline DarkDragon

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2008, 06:45:05 am »
You heard 'em boys, now show some respect for da man Hecker!

I don't blame anyone for the cute look, it doesn't even bother me that much. It wasn't one particular persons fault and I don't think we can really blame them for what they did, after all this is a game to appeal to everyone, not only the science "nerds"  ;)
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Offline Parkaboy

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2008, 07:17:02 am »
Well, I believe we should take the "Cute and Creepy" pack as an early example of Maxis' effort to please us fans. I mean, they can't lose the cute since that appeals to the majority of the players, the casual ones. But they're adding the "and creepy", wich I guess will please us most (at least, I hope). If they can keep up that duality on the EPs, I'd be very glad.

Offline DarkPlasma

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2008, 07:21:34 am »
There's a general rule in the videogame industry that works like this:
If a game is too unrealistic and focuses too much on looking entertaining, it sells bad, because it's too simple.
If a game is really realistic and very complex, it also sells bad, because it's too hard to understand properly.
Picking just one or the other is a suicide decision. Except for cases such as Nethack and Dwarf Fortress, where they can be as complex as they want because they're not on sale.

You heard 'em boys, now show some respect for da man Hecker!
NO! Chris Hecker is not just responsible for the cuteness in the game, but also for why they're making and releasing such small parts packs, why they included DRM, why so many creations are unpainted, and why I can't get a girlfriend! Bah!

Offline TDKenyon

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2008, 07:58:25 am »
[Editted]
I'll have more faith ;).
« Last Edit: November 05, 2008, 11:02:23 am by TDKenyon »

Offline WrathPhoenix

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2008, 09:01:39 am »
You mean I can drop the trout...?

Offline Petike

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2008, 10:41:29 am »
Mods: Can this be merged? It's probably going to be another argument thread about the same thing. Yeah, it's news, but it's literally the exact same topic as Sub's "One of the reasons why..." thread. Maybe you could ask Sub to include the quote in his first post.
Mods: I disagree about merging it. While technically it is about the same topic, it completely changes our previous myths about the development. Will Wright was right, (obviously), that vilifying a random developer for these things, is totally incorrect, and people should know the truth.

And not everyone reads the fifth page of the "One of the reasons why..." thread.
Quote from: MasterChiToes in "Spore was dumbed down"
Maybe the Sporons are the ones that got dumbed down?  ;D

Offline TDKenyon

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2008, 11:01:48 am »
...
And not everyone reads the fifth page of the "One of the reasons why..." thread.
That's why I suggested adding the quotes to Sub's original post. However, I do agree that this is an entirely different point of view, it just depends on whether or not people choose to change their previous views. Perhaps I have too little faith in Spore:General recently by believing it's mostly filled with misguided anger and biased, illogical posts (no one in this thread so far :D).

I retract my request.

On Topic:
I'm very glad Lucy and Will confirmed what has already been stated by the more reasonable, calm people in the other thread. It was stupid to point blame at any one individual who was not Will. Swayed or not, Will chose to go in the direction because he thought it was in the best interest for his game.
Hurrah!

Offline IamMe

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2008, 01:37:43 pm »
Kill Will Wright!! >>;

I don't know why, but now that the lead game designer told us that it's his fault, I not only stopped hating Chris, but now I kinda respect Will more for making that decision.

Sorry Chris. :/

Quote from: MaxisWill
A genre-spanning game like Spore is almost by its very nature experimental. Not only do we not have an existing game to learn design lessons from, we also donít initially know what the demographic of our players will be (and hence their expectations for complexity and depth). As we move forward with the franchise we plan to listen closely and learn. Our plans for the first Spore expansions are already revolving heavily around what weíre hearing from our players so far.

-Will Wright

:D


If Lucy/Will still read this forum, thanks for letting us know the truth.

Offline Kenobro

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2008, 01:58:52 pm »
I think we all owe a big apologize to Chris.  He worked on the procedural system.  Also, he's right, I feel more connected to my cell when it has eyes.


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Thanks Kenobro. :)

Offline Arachoid

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2008, 02:00:40 pm »
I must admit, if Will hadn't clarified, I wouldn't have listened. I hereby release any remaining dislike of Chris Hecker, though I still think the physics-based creation system would have been more fun.

...

...

... But seriously, sneakers?  ;)
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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2008, 03:55:04 pm »
I hope some of you today felt a little enlightened. Continue to look forward to future expansions.

It seems now that you can expect direct attention from Maxis if you post your ideas at the official forums. If you want to see what you want to see in Spore, start there.

Offline Lippy

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2008, 04:54:16 pm »
I think we all owe a big apologize to Chris.  He worked on the procedural system.  Also, he's right, I feel more connected to my cell when it has eyes.

Not all of us thought Chris was at fault.  Some of us actually paid attention to the development and actually knew more about it than the intern who started all of this animosity towards him seemed to know. 

I hereby release any remaining dislike of Chris Hecker, though I still think the physics-based creation system would have been more fun.

Chris said a physics based creature creation game might be fun too.  But it didn't work with what they wanted Spore to be. 

Offline Blulightning

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Re: Maxis reacts on "science vs. cute" debate
« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2008, 06:42:49 pm »
I think there is still a misunderstanding about Chris Hecker.

A lot of people were mad at him, because of the original posts about him starting up the 'cute team'.
But it wasn't just this that caused problems.

Chris Hecker is a hypocrite.

He was originally an advocate for indie games ('independently made games', for those of you who aren't familiar with the term).

And I think Jaleho put it best in another topic:
And you know what drives me insane trying to understand? Chris Hecker is one of the driving people in the world of INDIE Gaming... the very people focused on new, untested, potentially unsuccessful ideas. A major figure in the world of "who cares if it makes a lot of money -- we need fresh ideas that aren't Halo and Madden."

But then I remember Hecker never shipped a game before Spore, that he said he had to give up indie games to "sell out" and make an income, and it all makes sense...

He believed in Indie Gaming, then Indie Gaming let him down, and he gave in to the almighty dollar and the game industry. Because HE couldn't succeed in indie games, he decided "if you can't beat them, join them" and gave in to the "pander to the dumbed-down masses" mentality.

I think he steered Spore away from its "extreme" heading, because he felt (from his own experiences) that Spore would be doomed to failure if it continued down that path.

And even still, Chris Hecker was the one to state in a GDC 2007 conference:

Quote
"The Wii is a piece of $#&%!" Hecker began his talk, which was called "Fear of a Wii Planet." He blasted a few bars of Public Enemy to set the tone. Hecker said the Wii is nothing more than two GameCubes stuck together with duct tape, and that the console isn't powerful enough to provide the next-gen experience he has been waiting for.

Although he stated the system is "severely underpowered," Hecker noted that he wasn't simply referring to the Wii's graphical capabilities. He wants to spend a console's CPU making games more intelligent, and he has found the Wii doesn't have the power to process things like complicated AI.


Which implies that without the best graphics and the best CPU, good games can't be made.
Which implies that good games need the best graphics and use a lot of memory.

Which then implies that indie development, something of which he was one of the largest advocates of, is completely and utterly futile.


He may deserve thanks for designing a procedural system for Spore, but that doesn't negate the fact that he is a complete hypocrite and deserves the backlashing.

Just because he failed at what he set out to do, does NOT mean that he should set out to do the exact opposite.
It reminds me of people who sit and drink every night because they hate their lives, when in reality they hate their lives because they sit there and drink every night.

He deserves the criticism. He needs to get his head on straight.
Hopefully he read a lot of people's comments about him, and hopefully he'll realize that he's made a lot of mistakes and will think more clearly about what he actually believes. Right now, He is a sell out.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2008, 06:47:45 pm by Blulightning »