A Dicey Summit
This past week has seen 2015’s DICE summit, and with it the bestowing of a slew of awards in what is widely considered to be the video game industry’s equivalent of the Oscars or the Grammys – and what would the Grammys be without their very own big, fat Kanye West, this year played with aplomb by Sledgehammer Game’s Glen Schofield, director of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. This butthurt fool took to Twitter in order to bemoan the fact that his game was “snubbed“, implying that he considers his derivative drek to have excelled in at least some aspect against the year’s other major titles:
“Snubbed at DICE. I do have to say it hurts. Really does.”
No, Schofield, you were not “snubbed“. To be snubbed would require making a game with actual merits to set it apart from the pack. When you release essentially the same game every year for the past seven years there really is not a lot to distinguish it from the rest of the competition. One has the sneaking suspicion that Schofield’s indignation stems more from the fact that DICE failed to rubber stamp one of the biggest sellers of 2014, which he surely must have all but assured of given the popularity contest nature of these sorts of award shows.
The year’s most prolific award recipient was Monolith’s Shadow of Mordor, picking up a haul of eight DICE awards, which seems fitting given that it was the only Western developed game of 2014 to offer innovative game mechanics of any sort. That said, Shadow of Mordor did not win the overall game of the year category, that honour went to Dragon Age: Inquisition – so perhaps Glen Shofield was justified in feeling snubbed after all. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare does not distinguish itself in any way, yet at least it is successful in being the game that it attempts to be – and that is a game which is considered to be fun by a large audience [of morons]. By comparison Dragon Age: Inquisition is a failure on every front, offering a campaign which is a glorified list of fetch quests, and a narrative which perpetrates all the worst excesses of fangirl slash fiction. Then again, the year’s big losers are probably non-Nintendo Japanese games such as Bayonetta 2 and Dark Souls II, both of which eclipse the mid-80s metaratings of Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age: Inquisition with Metacritic scores of 91 each.
It is a source of great personal amusement to watch as Iwata awkwardly dances around the subject of smartphone development. The greater portion of Nintendo’s investors have got it into their heads that Nintendo’s best path to profitability is to start releasing cherished Nintendo franchises on iOS and Android platforms – as though that will not debase Nintendo’s currency. When last we left Iwata he had given a halfhearted [and one posits insincere] commitment that Nintendo would release a few smallish games on smartphone platforms which would be designed to lure smartphone gamers over to Nintendo hardware. Now it would seem that the oracular bananas have changed their minds, and instead wish Iwata to instruct Mr Nintendo to plagiarise successful smartphone games for release on the 3DS!
That is right – Nintendo’s path back to profitability involves cloning successful smartphone games for release on their console hardware, raising the pertinent question of why anyone would opt for the more expensive Nintendo option when they could just install the original game on their phones. Iwata revealed to Nikkei that the low development costs of smartphone gaming would allow them to notionally release these games for the low price of several hundred yen, yet one wonders how this thought bubble reconciles with their plans for the release of Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition, which is set to receive a physical release for a price that is presumably greater than several hundred yen.
Alistair Pinsof Interview Reveals Further Game Industry Ethical Breaches
This past week has seen Alistair Pinsof give his first interview since being fired from Destructoid for uncovering Kickstarter fraud, and being subsequently blacklisted from working within the gaming media by the ‘GameJournosPro’ mailing list. In it he discusses at length the conflict of interest which was created when an indie gaming journalist, Brandon Boyer, found himself in control of the most powerful indy gaming body in the world, the IGF. Pinsof recounts the ways in which IGF nepotism led to awards being handed to personal friends as though they were candy.
“In 2011, at Fantastic Arcade, I was talking to a former game journalist Tiff Chow who I recognized from her work at Destructoid in 2008. I asked what she thought would win the Best Game Award, she flippantly bragged that her boyfriend is friends with Brandon so he’ll win. I took it as a bad joke. Next day, sure enough, he won Best in Show for Faraway, against games such as Fez (which won audience award), Skulls of the Shogun, Radical Fishing, and Octodad. It seemed fucked up, but it was such an insignificant show and I depended on Brandon as a local journalist so I stayed silent. Looking back now, it definitely makes me question how the IGF is run. Along with all the controversy around IGF judges years back and recent rumors that have come out about Fez being pushed by investors who shared judging roles, what I witnessed give these claims some credibility along with how Brandon Boyer treated me personally recently, when I’ve always been a friend and supporter to him.”
It was not just this cronyism that was problematic, but also the fact that Boyer held the power to effectively ruin the careers of anyone he deemed to be unsightly – meaning that these kind of ethics beaches could not be addressed for fear of angering the biggest fish in the pond. Speaking of fish, Phil Fish was someone who Pinsof considers to have benefited quite considerably through his manipulation of high-level friendships with Boyer and the game media at large, effectively granting him impunity for stealing the work of other indie developers for his popular platformer, Fez. Shawn McGrath created the central mechanic of Fez, which allows players to rotate the 2D world in three dimensions, and much of the game’s code is lifted directly from one of his prior projects, meanwhile Jason Degroot designed the game’s sound. There was a falling out in 2007, and it was agreed that the game would cease production, yet it would seem that Fish continued development, utilising both McGrath and Degroot’s work, and when the game was hugely successful upon release, the two saw not a penny.
“The thing the public never knew – that McGrath and Degroot held for leverage should the filmmakers & Fish not change the credits – is that McGrath worked on Fez until the GDC trailer put out in October 2007, according to McGrath. At this point, McGrath had a second falling out and this time it was serious. McGrath told him they were done and Fish agreed to cancel the project. The agreement was that McGrath would take his original design (2D/3D rotating mechanic) and Fish would take his Trixel engine, according to McGrath. When McGrath saw the game appear at IGF 2008, he was furious and felt backstabbed. There’s been bad blood between them ever since. This behavior seems habit for Fish since the same thing happened to Degroot who designed the game’s original audio aesthetic via sound effects and a chiptune score, only to be cut and suddenly replaced with someone else who copied his style — it’s an amazing soundtrack but Fish keeps bringing in new people to follow through on other people’s ideas.
I think Fish is a talented visual designer and Fez carries his unique stamp on it, but the problem — and this is according to McGrath — remains that two of its biggest creators were snubbed out of its development, uncredited, unpaid, stolen from, and lied to. What makes this an industry wide problem is that the two were afraid to speak out because of Fish’s connections. Fish was friends with Boyer who ran the IGF, Fish was a social butterfly who knew a lot of gaming press (there were multiple videos of him casually hanging out with 1UP staff back on their video site in 2008) and had high level connections at Microsoft. Degroot & McGrath feared Fish would use his connections to ruin their career right as they were to debut their successful indie title Dyad.“