Bleah. In a bit of a funk. Two of the guys I hung out with at work have recently left – one for Harmonix, and one for Bungie. If you made a list of the “most jealousy-inducing places to work in games,” the only other companies on the list would be Valve and Blizzard. On top of losing two people who were both really good and fun to hang out with, it really makes me wonder what I want out of my career in games, and why I am where I am.
Right now, things aren’t bad. I’m really happy with the state of the game we’ve been working on, and I think it genuinely has potential to address a really long-standing problem I’ve had with games in a really interesting way. It’s not “art” – at least, not yet – it’s just entertainment, but I think it’s entertainment that has the potential to be pretty damn good. The problem is that the company is hemorrhaging talent, and it’s at the point where there’s only one other designer (the guy I carpool with) who I know has what I’d consider real talent. There’s one guy I think is pretty good, two that I don’t really have any experience with, and one I think just doesn’t have it in him.
So, the thing is, even if this game gets put into the pipeline and gets a full budget, does this company have the talent to make a genuinely great game? Maybe. That’s about all the hope I can muster for the future. At the same time, if I ask myself, “Where else could I work?” the answers aren’t good. There’s the four mentioned above, but they’re in different places, and moving isn’t really an option I’m interested in pursuing. In the Bay Area, there’s EA Redwood Shores, Sega, Crystal Dynamics, Double Fine, Factor 5, Backbone, Planet Moon, Secret Level, 2K Marin, Nihilistic…
2K Marin’s obviously got a lot of hype – with Bioshock the critical and commercial success it was, they’re clearly pushing for a huge hit with Bioshock 2. Someone recently asked me why I hadn’t interviewed there yet, and frankly, the problem is that I don’t know what I’d do with a Bioshock 2. The gameplay mechanics weren’t what “made the game,” and the story… was done, in Bioshock 1. There’s nowhere to take that story.
You could do something thematically similar, but the things that made Bioshock distinctive and unique were really one-offs – you’d have to pull off something equally challenging and unusual, but in a totally new and different way. And *even if* you managed to pull that off, you’d only ever be the successor to Bioshock. It is in some ways, a lose-lose situation – not even enough of an interesting challenge to be motivating. Bioshock 2, unfortunately, is a game that *shouldn’t exist*, and as a result, I can’t really imagine wanting to devote two years of my life to that project.
Obviously, it’d be great to make something that was a commercial success – that’d be grand. But more than that, I want three major things:
1.) To work with people I enjoy working with
2.) To work on something I am personally proud of
3.) A sense of creative ownership (even with collaborators) over the work
Point 3 isn’t really gonna happen at any of the major companies, but point 2 would definitely be facilitated by working at a place that really knows how to make quality games. Point 1 is a tossup, and something that’s always hard to find – but not impossible. There have been times where I’ve really enjoyed working with the people I work with – they just haven’t lasted very long before the situations were shaken up.
Feh. If I were honestly totally motivated – to the point I’d need to be to *actually* start an independent development, I would work on something in the evenings outside of work. But I don’t. I have a tool I *should* be writing stuff for, but I can’t find it in me to sit down and work on it. Why is that? Fear of failure? I dunno. I can’t explain it. I should just do it.