Everyone’s talking about revolution, evolution, technological masturbation or format holder flagellation.
Apologies to John and Yoko, but that means it must be time for E3. As ever there are many games reaching their third, fourth or even fifth iteration. Spawning so many sequels is a great testament to the success of a franchise, but it also highlights the risk averse approach to making games.
I’ve just finished reading Ed Catmull’s excellent Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. Pixar has a remarkable track record in what publishers call ‘new IP’, rather than relying solely on endless sequels.
It’s easy to blame big corporations, a situation Catmull describes well when he talks of Pixar’s relationship with Disney. Having spent many years at McGraw-Hill, Canon and then EA I know all about what Catmull calls ‘feeding the beast’ - success leads to expansion and the need for more content, resulting in ‘pressure to create - and quickly.’ Publishers desire new IP but they need the tried and tested ones to feed the machine and keep money rolling in. Original projects become ‘nice to have’ but not essential.
Creating new things is hard work, volatile and completely bewildering. It’s far safer to stick with tested concepts. I get it. Being faced with a blank sheet of paper is incredibly daunting.
We were faced with exactly that when I started Burnout, Black and our Need for Speed titles when I ran Criterion Games. Two months ago, I founded Three Fields Entertainment and I’m back at the beginning again. The experience can be overwhelming and incredibly scary but it’s also one hell of a ride that takes you to somewhere in a way you never imagined possible.
At the start of every game I thought that this was the one where we would get it all planned out at the start. But I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing truly original ever happens that way. In reality we discover what game we’re trying to make as we make it. We need to be open to ideas that emerge during that process. It’s messy, but every innovative idea we ever had was arrived at this way - from Burnout’s Takedowns to the Autolog system in Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. I felt like we had failed every time. Now I realise that you have to embrace the messiness and not to shut down ideas too quickly.
Keeping faith doesn’t mean blindly sticking to what you’ve done, but it does mean ignoring the naysayers and doubters. Don’t feel the need to answer every challenge or question. Time will tell whether you are right or not.
For now you just have to find a way to keep believing. At Three Fields, all we are saying is give your dreams a chance.