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September 01, 2010

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Excited about your new column! You got one little detail wrong though, they do not have iPads in Transylvania yet. You americans have been buying them all so there haven't been any left over for us europeans yet.

Hello Clint.
I think i finally understood now why you left Ubisoft - because of Convergence, isnt it?

But last paragraph dont make it clear for me, are you against Convergence or for it? Is Convergence good or bad?
I see the duality of your opinion about it. Everything except last paragraph means its bad, but last one seems that you think its good and this confusing me.

Well my general opinion about it match almost 100% your opinion (if i get it right) i have idea that Convergence could be good if implemented right way, but way its implement these days its pretty bad.

I dont agree with last 2 sentences when you say "casual gamers, hardcore gamers, bite-sized gamers and mobile gamers have been playing in separate worlds. Until we can bring them together and unite them around a common experience - custom to each platform, but ultimately connected".

Unification of these different type of gamers leads to frustration of both. Only Middle kind of gamers is happy who can be described as neither fish, flesh nor good red herring.

Just lets take for example what you familiar with - Splinter Cell.

1st to make it Clear - i am personally hardcore player with 20 years of gaming experience, i love realism in story & gameplay, i clearly believe its a key to immersion in the world of game.
I also believe that games should give player a challenge, learn him at 1st levels and test his skills in last, but this challenge should not be for dorsal brain, it must be a challenge for cerebrum (brain) even if this is shooter.

2nd i love many games for many things, from FFVII to Dreamfall & Fahrenheit & MGS for their stories (well since MGS4 i dont love MGS at all) , but game which gameplay i love the most in this world is Splinter Cell Chaos Theory - it was nearly perfect game in its genre - stealth action, and its still a perfect game for me.

Surely Stealth action is my fav genre and it sucking hard now, because no one yet did better stealth action than Chaos Theory was (well perhaps Thief 3 - Deadly shadows & Chronicles of riddick + Hitman blood money are best three after Chaos Theory). Even next splinter cells wasnt as good as SCCT was.
And what you think is the reason why next Splinter Cell was not that good (or was worse to be honest)as CT was? (I mean except reason you was not involved in its development)

Convergence is the reason why Double Agent and Conviction sucked comparing to CT!

CT was a pure hardcore game for hardcore gamers, and despite the fact it wasnt targeting casual and bite sized gamers it sales was better than Conviction had recently and Double Agent had a while back!
hardcore gamers paid good for what was created for them with love and care back then, this year they didnt pay this much for Conviction because it did not target them, Conviction just tried to target everyone and missed near hearts of both.
It tried to be more shooter than stealth, but not just shooter, but a friendly and quick shooter so it even utilised aimbot (oh yeah Aimbot is "great" challenge) to make it noobs-friendly.
It tried hard to be more cinematographic but it's dull story screwed itself in 2nd mission when main intrigue "Sarah is alive" was spoiled so well, so rest of game Sam's agressive actions wasnt motivated... writer of this story didnt understood that all the truth and intrigues should be revealed in the end of game, not in the end of 1st level. The rest of story was paced even worse - Some events of previous games was ignored, some retconed, new dull characters like Reed introduced and killed(who the hell is Reed and what the hell he make it to 3rd echelon? Game gives no clue about this, he just replaced Williams for some random reason), Megiddo organisation was introduced but forgotten in the end of game, Computer geek Grim turned into tough vixen, JBA connection to NSA mole wasnt explained, Echelon turned into stand alone structure separated from NSA, and whole "Megiddo attempt to kill president" was to much unrealistic, pompous and pathetic.
All these projections on wall and stylish angles of camera as well as Prerendered cinematics with lot of explosions instead of "Loading in progress" screen didnt make Conviction story believable and enjoyable because it wasnt realistic, or rational - it just tried to be like these summer blockbuster action movies of Michael Bay or this pathetic bubble gum called 24 as well as though Jason Bourne trilogy and Mission impossible 2.

Realistic, rational, and deep story where all little details of puzzle compose whole picture in the end - thats what made Chaos Theory story believable & Enjoyable! Best friend is worst enemy? That was good surprise in the end! Douglas and Otomo - was allies and turned to be the reasons of everything. Story of conviction included many philosophic themes like growing PMC problem (which Kojima later stolen from SCCT for MGS4 but we will not tell anyone ;-)), friendship vs personal ambitions and orders and many more. And despite this game not pretended to be personal drama of Sam like Conviction and Double Agent did, CT managed to reveal more of Sam's personality than both of later games - i cant forget that Moment when i was given option to play hero and save pilot from crashed plane or when Sam was making his decision to shoot Douglas and when Sam saved otomo.
In conviction Sam & another 2 agents shoot everyone, even innocent cops - last game totally loose moral side, sam can be brutal & lethal, nothing more, nothing less. And the reason of this again is Convergence!
This game should be called Splinter Cell Convergence (lol it sounds similar).
Max Beland told in one of interview that he tried to make this game accessible to wider range of players... and result of this accessibility is loose of orthodox fan base.

But do such kind of game like SC really needs to be accessible to everyone? do splinter cell requires Convergence? I doubt this!
I talked to Max Beland personally about what happened to Conviction and he said that he didnt want to create game which cant be finished by million of players (i think it is a bit exaggerated, SCCT wasnt so hard and boring so millions couldnt finish it, and as number of sales show - more millions of gamers bought it).
He also said that they tried to restore as many features of original as possible (since when he joined conviction was totally different game already) but he had and orders from Ubi HQ to make game for everyone... such a convergent orders.

This situation reminds me when some music groups which used to play rock which you love, started to play electronic, which you dont like that much, and then turned into total pop trash which you hate.
Or another example is when you fav TV Series which started as real drama, turns to stupid comedy in next seasons.
Same happens with most of IP when Convergence knock to their door. This happened even with Far Cry 2...
Original Far Cry was PC exclusive, Far cry 2 have wider audience as target, but only customisation for PC was editor and graphics (well these days even such type of platform customisation is rare case) rest of game experience was same and caused mixed feelings - it was clearly attempt to be realistic, but effert to make it console & casual user's friendly turned it into something weird which wasn Far Cry for sure, and was worse then Crysis for me (Crysis is actualy true Far Cry 2 for many players, because it preserved all the features of Far Cry 1, when so-called Far Cry 2 did no even allowed to prone in grass to stay hidden and havent had visibility meter which was base of original Far Cry gameplay expirience, also these realistic animations of healing and hudless ui looked weird when rest of gameplay wasnt so realistic and was simplified to suit console and casual gamers).
But you probably followed UBI HQ orders too when worked on Far Cry 2... so again Marketing \ Business ruined design of game.
Ther is a good rule - if something works well, dont fix. And Convergence dont respect this rule, it can ruin everything. Well at least with common way of its implementation - approximation.

That the problem which i described here in comments to Max Beland's interview 6 month ago
industrygamers com / news / interview-redefining-splinter-cell

So ill just copy-paste here my vision of how it should be implemented:

Kirill:
i think looking for a middle of 2 sides inst best solution to make game accessible to everyone.

If u will draw the line like that
-----------------------------------------

type these under it
Casual Middle Hardcore

and then will mark position of game on this line like that

--I--
and mark range of gamers it accessible to like that
[----.... ----]

u will find out that Game which do not belongs to any of side, cannot 100% reach both sides

----------{----------|----------}-----------
Casual Balanced Hardcore

So this means that game just dont suits 100% ultra hardcore gamers and not suits to 100% casual gamers, it is still inaccessible to many players

When you make game for ultra hardcore players, game accessible to this range of audience:
--------------------{----------|-----------}
Casual Balanced Hardcore

When you make game for ultra lame... i mean ultra casual players, game accessible to this range:

{----------|-----------}--------------------
Casual Balanced Hardcore

In all 3 cases game inaccessible to virtually equal number of players (i know that in reality number of hardcore gamers not equal to number of casual and middle type of players, but still my theory is right).
Every time when you moving game position on this line to any side you loosing part of audience. Move it a bit to casual = loose ultra hardcore gamers, move it a bit to hardcore = loose ultra casual gamers.

As a game designer myself (and as hardcore player and addict of stealth actions) I have designed a simple but useful solution how to make whole game accessible really to EVERYONE, how to make it please really wide range of gamers like this:

{---------------------|--------------------}
Casual Balanced Hardcore

It just require a bit more work on game but in the end every type of player will find game accessible, but in same time there no stupid compromises (which annoys both types of players) will exist... if ill make it from low budget russian game industry to big budget western or asian game industry i would be able to prove that my theory works in practice.

So if you interested in hiring wise & creative writer and game designer and in that solution (i have much more than this) contact me at Facebook (v00d00man) or twitter (v00d00m4n).
---
End of copypaste sorry for self-advertising in the end, just copied it as-is.

The idea is really simple, instead of approximate predefined decisions we should just add gameplay options, a lot of them, to let all kind of player to select what suits them best.

It should be something like Advanced graphics option, where we can set everything we like or dont like to see in gameplay.

For example some of advanced gameplay options we can let players to set (actually something like this, but less advanced, was available in original Far Cry and Crysis):

Example for Far Cry 2 controversial design decisions:

Health:
Automatic self heal \ Use medkits \ Combined

Damage:
Realistic | Friendly | Custom (1st one is kinda when you shoot in head youre dead, and second one - is no matter where you shoot, u just loosing some health, and custom allow more option like custom damage values for different zones of player's body)

Ai:
Movement:
Active (NPC actively moving) | Passive (NPC most likely will stick to cover and remain there untill they die)
Range of vision:
Realistic | Gameplay Friendly | Custom (slider where you can select distance at which AI can spot you)
Timing of AI reaction on spotted player:
Realistic | Gameplay Friendly | Custom (same here)
etc
Quantity of NPC:
Limited fixed number | Respawnable unlimited | Custom

Hud:
Hudless | Minimal | Maximal | Custom

Custom hud:
Display health
As % in overlay | As red blurry screen | Turn off
Display ammo:
As # in overlay | As built in counter | Pronounced by player (King Kong style} | Turned off
etc

Weapons:
Carrying:
Realistic | Arcade | Custom:
Use limited number of class specific slots | Use weight based limit | Carry all weapons together
etc

Ammo\Weapons items pickups:
Quick Pick up by running through it | Pick up with realist animation | Custom (in custom should be every item whith option about how to pick it up, with animation or just by touching it.)

Respawns of items:
Unique items \ Re-spawnable \ Smart (spawned only if necessary to to complete objective) \ Custom (same as in pickup animation)

And so on.
Some easyr example: I suppose you played MGS before started to work on Splinter Cell so you probably know that these [!] above heads, as well as non real-time codec conversations can be frustrating and just look stupid. But imagine now that each player can go to advance gameplay setting and have options to turn off [!] symbols above head, and turn on real-time codec conversation that will not set on pause whoe game world - this will difinately make MGS more realistic and in same time, these players who love symbols above head and non real-time codec, will be happy.

You see the idea?
Players need options to make their own "design decisions", because not every designer's decision is good and not every one of it will suit every player.
We - game designers (and our worse enemies from marketing divisions), should not lock the game to be playable the only way that we (or what is worse marketing division)think is best way, we should not try to find compromise between left and right, white and black and we should not give player approximated grey middle, we should just bring them both left, righr, and even middle with white, black and infinite gray gradient between them. So every game will be like LEGO which have details for gameplay both for casual and hardcore.
These players will always remain separated by at least we will bring them details that they can or can not use if they like so.
So one can play realistic simulator of secret spy who have no freedom to kill anyone and another one can play arcade shooter and leave no one alive behind.

P.S. - im trying to make it to Ubi Toronto as Writer and \ or Game designer to join SC6 dev team and try to convince everyone to return game to roots and spread the idea like a virus across office that SC6 should be at least as good as SCCT was.
I wrote few script and conception drafts of SC6 and even SC7 or SC reboot, with attempt to fix all Double Agent and Conviction mistakes in Story and Gameplay.

Since your the one who directed best ever Splinter Cell and best stealth action so far, i would be really honoured and happy to hear your sincere review about my drafts in personal conversation.
So can i send them to you and would you agree to review them... if you dont mind please? If your answer is yes, how can i do this? Facebook or email, maybe something else?

I couldn't agree with you more about bringing divergent gamers together, it would be ideal from a business perspective. I disagree from a gamers perspective though. The hardcore will always group together and the occasional gamer will float until they find their niche group. With so many competing interests, how can this truly come to fruition though?

I think cloud gaming (or at least saves) would be massively more appealing with this kind of convergence. If it was for playing the same game, cool. If it was a different take on the same title (i.e. Face Shooters: The Portable Side Story of More Face Shooting) then things could get even more interesting. It'd be like the vaunted save transfers between Mass Effect 1 & 2, but with even greater possibilities.

I remember this topic being hot when the Matrix trilogy came out, and I attended a talk from a "media convergence company" on the subject.

Whats sad is that, while the Matrix trilogy itself took a sharp downturn, the creative process at the heart of it was the best use of convergence I've seen. They might not have got it perfectly balanced, but the Wachowskis were onto something with the idea of creating an overarching IP, rich with multiple plot threads, backstory and characters, and then leveraging parts of that IP to the mediums that best suited them.

Many of the stories in the Animatrix series wouldn't have worked in a live action setting. The story of the game's characters was necessarily light on narrative content and big on action.

I think there's a lot that could be done with a more top-down approach to multiple media formats when creating an original IP.

The downside is that this is more financially risky than the bottom-up approach of leveraging parts of a movie IP for a game and vice versa.

Att: v00d00m4n

You're a bit off on a few things though: SCCT sold poorly. In fact, it sold even less than Double Agent! To put in context though, SCCT was much better in my opinion but the timing probably affected the sales it was released during the same year the new console generation started rolling out. (PC sales for this brand were abysmal for all iterations; that trend didn't change with SCCT)

And a word of advice: if you view the marketing department -- or any department really -- as your "worse enemies", you'll most definitely fail. Of course, you can _choose_ where you work, or you can start your own company and see how that works for you.

The right tool for the right job. the right presentation for the right medium. The right product for the right audience.

Since each element will be affected by different internal and external affectors, why WOULD one believe that any transmedia property would find "equal" success in every medium its expressed.

Transmedia design is a production/marketing process... not an outcome.

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