I listen to a ton of podcasts. 40 different shows and counting. I don’t always listen to every episode, typically I’ll skip around and listen to something I’m in the mood for. Other times, there are shows that I’ll binge listen to an entire season, I guess you could call it, in just a few days. Other shows I listen to weekly.
I have your popular titles like Radiolab, This American Life, Hollywood Babble On for those who are fans of Kevin Smith. I also listen to a ton of podcasts about video games which I’m sure you can imagine. Giant Bombcast, Rebel FM, and Idle Thumbs have held my interest week after week for years now. These types of shows I enjoy mainly due to the subject matter but also because I have a very different opinion with many regulars on these shows about the craft of video games. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had many one sided arguments with Jeff Gerstmann about how great Banjo-Kazooie is and I stand by it!
I am also constantly looking for new podcasts to listen to. Much like watching the same show again and again on Netflix, you start to wonder what’s on the other side of the fence? Is the grass really greener? Not always. You run the gambit of poor audio quality, zero intros or show segments, or someone just dropping f-bombs left and right. I’m all for freedom of speech but damn man, stop saying fuck all the time. But sometimes, just sometimes, you come across a well created podcast that you’ve never heard of before. The show that I discovered was the Experimental Game Dev Podcast Show hosted by Action.
I’ve only listened to a handful of episodes so far but one of them really stuck out to me: February 18th episode entitled “The Journey and Design of Inversus: A competitive action/strategy game and e-sport”. This episode has developer Ryan Juckett, sole creator of Inversus. The episode is a good one, talk mainly around origin stories, network coding, inspirations. I highly recommend the episode to any aspiring indie devs and the podcast in general. Action has episodes going back to April of 2006 some even including well known names like Jonathan Blow of the Witness and Braid fame.
About a little over of an hour in, Juckett speaks about mobile gaming and those games that seem to shine through the mass of clutter that mobile gaming can seem to be. He mentions the fact that most of the games that are successful aren’t good in terms of mechanics but are very good in exploitation which builds their popularity. The free to play model comes up and both agree that there’s a right way and wrong way to use the free to play model correctly that doesn’t come off as paying to continue. A gambling mechanic, if you will. Then Action says something interesting:
As with any subject, this is a tough conversation to have. On one hand, you have developers who are tirelessly working day after day to create something new and creative and on the other hand you have AAA developers hiring a dozen or so developers to create another free to play “Flappybird” clone with their branding and logos strewn all about it. One doesn’t work without the other.
But the thing that really got me is there is such a larger conversation to be had here. Because there’s a reason that people will freely give them money away to play that next round without waiting. There’s a reason that people will pay money to the same style games over and over again. There’s something extremely important to learn from Juckett and Action’s observation.
Here’s what I think: I hate Tetris. I hate most puzzle games, for that matter. Columns, Candy Crush, Bejeweled. If I get one sniff of a puzzle game, I’m out.
But as a game developer, what good does that do me? I’m completely ignoring an entire genre of games. A genre that probably has more gamers playing than any other genre at the moment. We can’t simply ignore the fact. We need to realize that just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t like it. Or just because I’m creating an FPS, doesn’t mean that the traits and inspirations from a puzzle game have no room.
One thing that I say again and again: play the greats and play the dogs. Play the games that are pinnacles of their time and genre and play the games that everyone hates. The reason why they hate them and the reason why everyone loves them is more important than what you think about them.
Again, I highly recommend you listen to the episode in full and the podcast in general for that matter. There’s more useful information there than you can shake a stick at. If you are so inclined to do so. Shake a stick, that is.