Today I want to rant talk about how gamers love to criticise developers, especially mmo developers for making games based on proven formula. How no matter what the game is players will complain they are just copying WoW or some other game they happen to detest that they have some modicum of experience with. How the Holy Trinity of class design is lame and how having instances that allow the game to perform well and control the population as opposed to a vast open seamless world that runs at 1fps when everyone wants to be in the same place.

For those of you that don’t get why multi million dollar game investors won’t invest all their money in something completely different here is my attempt to drill it through your thick skull explain it to you.

Look at a first person shooter, maybe you’re old enough to remember when Wolfenstein and Doom were new. Remember how the first person view was fixed and you could only strafe and shoot on one axis? Maybe you’re not that old, maybe you remember some games were leaning was in, where the Q & E keys were used to lean around corners and you could use mouse look to look up and down. Maybe you’re actually younger and all of these things you take for granted.

Well there was a time when fps games used WSAD or the 4 cursor keys to move about and that was it save for a jump (usually space bar), shoot (originally CTRL) and activate keys (usually E).  At some point they added leaning to those keys so you can look round corners, now they have WSAD, Q (lean left) or E (lean right)  plus a Jump, shoot and activate key. Then one day someone added a crouch key so you can duck behind cover. WSADQE & Shift, then people started getting really clever with melee attack keys, dedicated grenade toss key, block keys, secondary fire, sprint etc.

My point is They all stuck with WSAD, at no point did anyone, not a developer and not a player say “you know what these keys suck why can’t we have something completely different, why can’t we have VUPZ or something?” This is because everybody saw it worked and while there may have been a few lefties or some one-handed guy that had to customise their keys to their own needs the vast majority of the gaming population understood right hand mouse, left hand WSAD movement.

Now apply that logic to games mechanics, class makeup, combat, zone design, UI, graphics etc. There are established parts of game design that just work well and over the years designers have added their own bits and pieces to individual games and some ideas have caught on and others have fallen by the roadside.

Now these designers believe it or not, they know a thing or two about designing games “people” play. Remember I said “people” not you and your best mate the game has to sell to people i.e. more then a handful.  People have proven by what games they enjoy what negative feedback they have given in those games and by what options they prefer to have turned on. Billions of dollars worth of games development in the past has proven many things that work and many things that don’t. Whatever your idea is it’s probably not new, it’s probably been done before by someone and it failed or wasn’t popular enough, if you ask enough developers I guarantee someone will have worked on a game that tried it at some point.

So now we have the investors, the people who see popular games and say “I want some of that profit thanks very much” these are the people who have all that fat cash to throw at developers and say “go ahead make your game” and without them very few games would be made. Now these investors have likely worked hard for their money, they looked at spreadsheets, graphs and market reports and they see what games are selling and what games are not, they know enough about the market to choose which game to invest in and thats why the higher the risk the lower the investment potential because just like you and me, investors don’t want to lose all their money.

So investors and game developers use all the past experience to make games, and they will continue the evolution of games based on existing and past games and how players respond with their wallets not their forum ranting. Real innovation happens in the indie scene, were budgets are developer home re-mortgages and second job material forever flirting with bankruptcy while trying to live their dream. They take huge risks and mostly fail miserably but every so often one of those indie developers will stumble upon a new idea or a new way of doing a previous idea that never worked. The bigger development studios will see this and they will consider putting it into the bigger budget games, but first they need to see it work because those investors want to see it work to have confidence in the developers design.

So the next time you want to vent on a forum about how your current, favourite, in-development game isn’t revolutionising the genre, think about how they get their investors and how they convince them their game is worth investing in, think about how those developers can be sure to attract current gamers because if you really are excited about a game you should want it to succeed because only by sequels and investors does the genre ever truly move forward, it might be baby steps to you but better that then giant leaps that fall short of expectation.