o Why does any sane person use AOL? It's one of the greatest unsolved human mysteries, to be sure. And there's nothing worse that buying a computer that has AOL pre-installed. It's like a cancerous disease you cannot fully excise -- with tendrils so deeply rooted that all efforts to remove it will be unsatisfactory. I truly feel sorry for anyone stuck with AOL on their system -- the only true cure is a new computer, but be careful, it is really, really hard to cancel your subscription, as this story indicates. And more reason to hate the AOL devil.
o E3's demise. Well, the majority cry among game developers is, "Thank goodness!" I'm in that camp, too. E3 had become somewhat pointless to its main purpose...previewing upcoming games to major retailers and distributors, in order to generate bigger orders (especially for Christmas). E3 had become too loud, too expensive, too crowded, too overrun with "press" from little fanboi websites that don't matter to anyone's bottom-line (boy will I take heat for this comment! *grin*), and too irrelevant to anyone's bottom-line success (or failure). The fact is that in a broadband world, video killed the convention.
The only thing we lose with a mini-E3 is all the big-time prime-time news coverage. E3 made our industry look a lot bigger than we really were. The fact that this was a lie cannot be disputed, if only because E3 could not sustain itself. The bubble popped.
o Saw The Descent. Maybe the best pure fright movie I've seen since Alien. Also, one of the very, very, very few movies I've ever seen that is ripe to be made into a video game. I won't go into details, but those who've seen it are probably shaking their heads in agreement. BTW, be sure to go to YouTube to see the real ending, not the watered down American sell-out shortened ending.
o Elsewhere, I made a few comments about conceiving a new IP, which I'll repost here since this blog space has been sorely lacking material of late and so cannibalizing myself is the least I can do:
Silver bullet design -- searching for a single element that will lead to success -- is not often successful. Even bullet-time, in the wrong setting, with the wrong character, etc, would have done far worse. Bullet-time worked because it was within a John Woo-style story that made you care about the character, with modern day weapons. Bullet-time would have been less appropriate in a WW2 game, or a western game (like Gun).
Duke and Prey are prime examples of synergy, rather than silver bullets. Each of these games had many little innovations, and within contextually appropriate stories and settings.
Anyway, it's hard to think of what comes first. With Prey, it was the character (chosen for uniqueness), then the abduction setting was chosen because it wasn't typical for the character type (and provided easy conflict), then the character type led to the character's special abilities based on his Cherokee mythology, and then the alien environment led to gravity and portal effects, both of which make sense within the alien setting. So, it's like a tower that builds up into something solid.
The gameplay hook, more than anything, comes closest to the silver bullet. But, the gameplay hook needs to tie into the character and/or story and/or setting in a natural way that stays credible. If the gameplay hook comes first, these other things need to wrap around it seamlessly. If the story/character comes first, then the gameplay hook should emerge from this foundation and not feel like an after thought. For example, if your original character idea is that a teenager is bitten by a radioactive spider, then bullet-time isn't a natural gameplay hook. But wall climbing and web spinning are.
When we selected a Native American as a lead character in Prey, we didn't know jack about this culture. We just knew that it was a ripe-for-the-picking area to explore because no game had done it before, and positioning has taught us that it's best to do something first if at all possible (Prey was conceived prior to the first Turok game). When Prey was rebooted in late 2001, the first thing I did was spend $400 on Amazon buying a dozen books on Cherokee culture and mythology. This is where the companion hawk came from, for example, because Red Tail Hawks play a key role in Native American lore, as protectors and messengers -- exactly the role that the hawk plays in the game. The hawk also helped convey the game's story and mythology.
The main point is that I never could have forced this idea to the surface. It is only through exposure to other media and sources that it occurred to me.