我在柏林参加的Quo Vadis游戏开发者座谈会中的成员包括Glen Schofield（Sledgehammer Games联合创始人，代表作为《使命召唤：高级战争》），Noah Falstein（谷歌首席游戏设计师），Jens Begemann（Wooga首席执行官）以及Ed Fries（前微软游戏工作室主管，目前是一名活跃的游戏创业顾问）。
Fries：Penny Arcade在支持Child;s Play公益组织方面表现良好。我今年参加了他们的义卖活动，他们收到了60万美元左右的善款。这些善款来自《Desert Bus》玩家。你听说过这款游戏吗？
GamesBeat：我们要回到关于游戏未来走向的话题了。Quo Vadis Desert Bus？
Falstein：我曾同一名在媒体上极具曝光度的神经系统学科Dr.Adam Gazali共事。他的一大发现就是通过使用《Neuro Racer》这款特定的电子游戏，就能够让不擅长开车和进行多任务处理的六七十岁老人观察到擦身而过的标志。他通过这种游戏让老年司机达到了20多岁的司机同等的驾车水平。更棒的是，这些老人在之后6个月中不再玩该游戏，也不再体验其他电子游戏或者其他辅助的情况下，仍然保持了这一水平。也许医生也该向老年患者推荐电子游戏这种医方，以便保持人们敏捷的技能。
Gaming’s veterans tell how to break into the business (part 2)
Disclosure: The organizers of the Quo Vadis event paid my way to Berlin, where I moderated this session. Our coverage remains objective.
People around the world want to make great games. And American game creators are eager to impart their hard-earned knowledge. I traveled to Berlin with a group of gaming veterans who talked about their decades of experience in game development and their advice for those breaking into the business.
The panel I moderated at the Quo Vadis game developer event in Berlin included Glen Schofield, the cofounder of Sledgehammer Games, which created last year’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare; Noah Falstein, the chief game designer at Google; Jens Begemann, the CEO of Berlin’s Wooga; and Ed Fries, the former head of Microsoft Game Studios and an active game startup adviser.
We talked about how to break into the business and their predictions about where gaming is going. Virtual reality was high on the list, but so were mobile games and triple-A console titles. Here’s part two of the discussion, which includes a lot of audience questions. Here’s part one.
Question: My kids are now 12 and 14. They don’t make in-app purchases for mobile games. But now an entire generation of players have grown up in a world where free-to-play games are natural — and now they will be old enough to make in-app purchases of their own. Do you see this as another factor that may be driving mobile revenue even harder?
Begemann: The vast majority of players of any age don’t ever purchase anything in mobile games. I’d say the average is that around 95 percent don’t spend money, 5 percent do. That share seems to be increasing, because there are more and more examples of games where you get fair value for your purchase. We’ve seen a lot of bad examples where if you spend $5 you get nothing back. But more and more people have had purchase experiences in mobile games that are more like, “Well, a beer is $5, I just spent $5 here, and that was actually worth it.” They’re more interested in purchasing in the same game or in other games.
It’s a bit connected to age, because obviously the people who spend in mobile games are adults who have disposable income. We have 70 and 80-year-olds spending in games now, mostly women. But the big factor is that if people get good value, they’ll continue to spend.
Question: I wanted to ask about the topic of augmented reality, because I’m working in that industry and it’s a fascinating place right now. We’ve been doing the same genres in games for many years. We know platformers, action games, strategy games. But for new platforms, which have a new rule set entirely, do we need new kinds of games? Do you see genres evolving, or do you see the potential for completely new genres coming up to take advantage of those interfaces?
Falstein: One of the things we see clearly from experience is that the first games on a new platform, particularly one with new capabilities, tend to be the old games shoehorned into the new platform. It’s not until the next generation of games, when someone does a daring experiment, that suddenly it goes crazy. Everyone says, “Ah, there’s a new way of using this platform.”
I think that augmented reality specifically is one of those areas that’s going to evolve that way. I’d go out on a limb and say that the hit game that will put augmented reality on the map will be of a type that hasn’t been seen yet. It won’t just be a better shooter or something. That’s part of what excites me about the games industry in general. We keep creating these new technologies and new possibilities. This is just one of several areas that I think are going to open up a lot of new things.
I’ll give you a preview of one of the types of games that I think are going to be possible. This is something I’m thinking about with our Project Tango device. It’s not just that you can look through it and see the real world with virtual objects in it. It knows where it is in the real world, so you could have stealth games where it’s not about controlling a character. It’s about you moving through your own world stealthily. If you turn too quickly there could be a reaction from guards or an alarm that goes off. I don’t know if that would be a huge hit, but it’s never been possible before.
The idea that someone who doesn’t have fast reflexes might be able to succeed by being very slow, I think that’s intriguing. Maybe it’s because I’m aging that I think this is what everybody wants. But who knows where it will go? That’s part of what I love about it. We just can’t tell what the next big hit will be.
GamesBeat: A lot of mobile game companies are about to go grab a brand and try to succeed with it. Glen, I wonder what thoughts you might have about getting the right brand and innovating with it. You have the biggest brand there is in Call of Duty. How do you innovate when you have something that’s so familiar?
Schofield: That’s the question every year. What are we going to do that’s different? I’ve found that the biggest changes and innovations in games, the big sea changes like going from 2D to 3D, or when we went from 8-bit to 16-bit—when things change dramatically—People at Activision say to me now, “We’ve got to change the way we play video games!” I say, “Well, nothing’s changed in the console except that it’s more powerful.” It’s not like we have virtual reality. We’re always innovating. But that’s when we’re going to see a change in how we play.
Look at when the Wii came out. It dramatically changed the way you play a video game. That, to me, is when you’re going to see the biggest changes. For us, the biggest change for us these days is digital. Our game never ends. We’re never done. We continue to make the game. That’s a big change for us. We’re looking to make changes based on mobile. Someday we’re going to blend the two. We want people to be playing Call of Duty all the time, so we’re seeing all these new platforms and thinking, “How do we adopt that? How do we bring them into our way of gaming and take over?”
Question: I’m asking about social responsibility. Most companies try to approach new employees with good benefits, health insurance and so on. In Germany we founded an initiative called Gaming Aid, which is working within the games industry to support people in need. Do you think that, in the future, charity in general from within the games industry is a topic that’s upcoming as it gets bigger?
Schofield: I can speak about Call of Duty specifically, at least. We’re giving away millions every year toward veterans’ charities. It’s a very big initiative. We have a former four-star general from the Marine Corps who’s running it for us now. At Sledgehammer Games we have charity efforts every week, every month, on a yearly basis. We go out and talk to schools all the time. We do whatever we can.
GamesBeat: I guess a question could be, how do you do a triple-A version of a game-related charity, like Band Aid for music?
Fries: Penny Arcade has done a good job supporting the Child’s Play charity. I was at their auction this year. All of a sudden this huge chunk of money came in — $600,000, something like that. It was from a group of people who played Desert Bus. You know this game?
Schofield: I do. I was one of the original artists. It was so weird. That was the Penn and Teller game. We finished it. I’d worked with Penn and Teller. They were crazy.
Fries: For people who don’t know, Desert Bus is basically the dullest game ever made. You have to drive a bus in real time across the desert for eight hours. These guys did this telethon where they were just playing in shifts constantly for a week and raised a huge amount of money.
Schofield: It’s pretty weird. Somehow the game was stolen. It was never released, even though we finished it. Penn designed that. There was one other game we made there, called the Impossible Level. He brought in Lou Reed. Lou Reed did this song. The two of them walk in, and Reed kills you. We’re like, “That’s never going to sell!” And we were right. I can’t believe it’s turned into a charity vehicle.
GamesBeat: I knew we were going to get back to the future of games here. Quo Vadis Desert Bus?
Schofield: Well, you never know. The future of games is pretty darn bright.
Question: I’m from the X generation, the first one that grew up with video games, and we’re becoming old, getting into our 60s and 70s. We like a lot of these new concepts, but you can’t compete against a 20 year old. I feel like there’s a lot of money and a lot of future in creating games for an older generation.
Begemann: One thing I can say is that for many of our mobile games, the average age among players is about 40. It’s in the 50s sometimes. But these are particularly not player-versus-player (PvP) games. These are social experiences where you’re collaborating, or hidden object games, or puzzle games and things like that. I don’t know if we’ll see an eSports senior circuit.
Schofield: We could have easy, medium, hard, and senior? We do some things now where we adjust for color blindness. We have a mode in there for that.
Falstein: This isn’t quite what you’re talking about, but I’ve worked with a neuroscientist, Dr. Adam Gazali, who’s gotten a lot of press for things he’s done. One great thing he’s discovered is that by using a specific video game, Neuro Racer, he was able to take 60- and 70-year-olds who were very bad at driving and multitasking – looking at signs that are going by, things like that – compared to younger drivers, and by using this game he was able to get these older drivers almost to the same performance level as twenty somethings. Which is great, but the amazing thing is that they went six months without playing the game, without any refreshers or playing other video games, and they kept the lion’s share of that improvement. It may well be that doctors will start prescribing video games to people as they get older, just to keep our skills sharp.
Schofield: I can’t wait until we get a generation in their 60s and 70s that understands video games, because then that’ll mean our lawyers and judges and politicians will understand us better.
Begemann: That’s actually a very good point. There was a German game award show yesterday, attended by all these major politicians, people from the federal level on down. I saw the same award show five years ago, and the keynote went something along the lines of, “I don’t understand games very well, but my kids play them. …” That’s changing. We have politicians on stage now who say that they play games themselves. This generational change is slowly happening.
GamesBeat: It’s a global gaming business. For you and your companies, what does that mean? The fact that gaming is global, that it’s pervasive, does that change what you do, how you run your companies, how you participate in the industry?
Schofield: I go back and forth when I see McDonald’s. McDonald’s has adapted to different countries. They bring their food into these places. I know that for us, we’re doing that same thing. We want to be in China. We want to be in different countries. But we have to look at these markets that are completely different. They play differently. For us it’s a learning process. But we’d love to be around the world.
Falstein: Google is certainly worldwide. On the games level, after traveling and working with many people myself, we’re just trying a lot of different strategies. One thing, though, is not only helping people in one country sell to other countries, but also helping emerging markets sell within their own countries and create robust games industries where it may be culturally easier for developers in a country to make games that their compatriots will enjoy playing.
It’s an interesting thing to me. When I worked on the LucasArts stuff years ago, those games did incredibly well in Germany. I was never quite sure why. Proportionally, compared to the whole world, this was where those games sold best per capita, despite having a lot of inside jokes and puns and things that we didn’t think would translate very well. Lots of times you just can’t tell when something from one country will do well in another. It’s wonderful that we have this open digital marketplace now so that we can get stuff out there and all kinds of people around the world can play it.
Begemann: Speaking of international and mobile, obviously the market is global now. Another aspect that is also very interesting is that when it comes to employees working in games, that’s a very international thing as well. We’re based here in Berlin with all of our 250-plus employees in one office here, but less than half of those employees are German. We have more than 40 nations represented. Many of them don’t speak a word of German, and that’s fine. It’s great.
If, like us, you create games for the whole world, games that should work almost everywhere, you have to have a very international crowd together to create something that also works internationally. If we were a group of Germans making games, they would mainly work well here. It’s very inspiring to see our employees from all over the world coming here and working together.
Falstein: When I was consulting in Germany, I found that there was a whole class of games about micromanaging economies. There’s a long German word for the genre that only works in German and they’ve never sold well outside German-speaking countries. It’s great having stuff that works in your own country.
Begemann: It’s true. There are games by Germans for Germans in Germany. But I think that’s changing.
Fries: That ties to a point I wanted to make. I’m old enough to remember being lectured about why games would never be big in China. I was told that Chinese young men and women have to study too hard in school, which is true, and so their parents would never let them be distracted by games and so on and so forth. And now, of course, we’ve all seen the numbers. Tencent is arguably the biggest game company in the world today.
The other interesting thing to take away is that China didn’t just become a consumer. I think we have this predisposition to believe that when we conquer more of the world, so to speak, they’re going to just become consumers of our products. In fact, that isn’t at all what happened. They conquered the game business. We’ve seen how Chinese taste and Chinese game design have influenced the rest of the world. Likewise Germany has had that effect through board games and the like. These other kinds of games we’re talking about can spread to the rest of the world. It’s not so much that we open these new markets up and can sell into them. It’s more that they change the games industry themselves.（source：venturebeat）