原作者：Brendan Sinclair 译者：Vivian Xue
Alex Hutchison在3A游戏开发领域可谓资历深厚，他担任过《模拟人生 2》（The Sims 2）和《孢子》（Spore）的首席设计师以及《刺客信条 3》（Assassin’s Creed III）和《孤岛惊魂 4》（Far Cry 4）的创意总监。
Hutchinson举了《收获日 2》（Payday2）、《方舟：生存进化》（Ark: Survival Evolved）和《传送门》（Portal）作为例子，它们都是“在游戏体验上可以与3A游戏竞争的优质游戏并且不需要400个开发人员。”
这一理念部分来源于他以往的开发经历。Hutchinson曾在EA担任《战地双雄：第四十天》（Army of Two: The 40th Day）的创意总监，一款有点人格分裂的游戏。《第四十天》是上一部合作射击游戏的续作，最大的亮点也许是它的“兄弟美学”，游戏鼓励玩家们改装枪支：比如为枪支镀金或白金或者用钻石镶嵌它们。
“这的确是最可怕的地方，” Hutchinson说，“如今大家不是在App Store就是在Steam上售卖游戏，并且我感觉它们基本无人问津，就像是把你的游戏堆到CompUSA（一家美国消费电子产品,技术产品和计算机服务经销商，游戏邦注）前面的那个big bin（专门放折扣商品，游戏邦注）里。我一般会看看能否在里面找到些什么，但是大多数人只是路过它。我认为我们还没有解决这个问题，并且我认为这两个平台也没有兴趣解决这个问题，因为在他们眼中每个人只是一个百分比，只要你买了东西，他们就能赚很多钱。我们得想办法克服这一点，这就是为什么我们决定与发行商合作发行第一款游戏。我们是一个新IP和新工作室，所以需要帮助来获得一点名气。”
自从2000年初在澳大利亚开发商Torus Games开始工作以来，Hutchinson并不需要与外部发行商合作，当时他表示游戏行业宛如“西大荒”（Wild West，美国初期的西部荒原，游戏邦注）。他回忆起一个和Torus产生过经济纠葛的发行商。他们当时在不同的工作室有三到四个项目，但是资金只够支持其中的两个。但是，这个发行商并没有选择减少项目数量，而是每月对各个项目进行评估，并根据评估结果决定哪些团队可以获得资金。
Alex Hutchinson has a lengthy resume in AAA game development, from lead designer on The Sims 2 and Spore to creative director on Assassin’s Creed III and Far Cry 4.
One might think such familiarity would make him comfortable working in that part of the industry, but speaking to GamesIndustry.biz at the Montreal International Games Summit last month, Hutchinson spoke more of fear in AAA than comfort.
“If you look at budgets, the cost of games has been increasing astronomically over the last decade, but the cost to consumers hasn’t really moved, so that’s the really scary part,” Hutchinson said. “People are looking at the fact it’s $100 million to make the game and saying we just can’t sell it like that. So then you have to turn around and sell it for $150, or find another way to get some money, or cut the budget. So there’s three uncomfortable decisions in there someone has to make.”
That’s part of the reason why Hutchinson left Ubisoft last year to start his own development house, Montreal-based Typhoon Studios.
“When you’re spending a lot of money, you have to justify your project by saying it’s going to appeal to a lot of people, which essentially means it cannot be a strong flavour,” Hutchinson said. “I think by definition you just have to be more mainstream. You can have a few elements that are a bit more extreme, but you have to play to the middle because of the amount of money you’re spending.
“So it was interesting with Typhoon to say if we trim the budget by a lot, then we don’t need to sell as many copies. Which is actually kind of fun, because then we can make something [different]. You’re never going to get a $100 million horror movie made, but you can get a $10 million horror movie made, which could be equally brilliant. I think the same is equally true of video games.”
While it’s still too early to talk about what Typhoon is making, Hutchinson said the team has staffed up to about 20 people, landed a publishing deal, and settled on a strategy.
“I think there’s still a big opportunity in the middle of the market,” Hutchinson said. “I think you can make a game with a small team that competes with parts of AAA games. I don’t think you can compete obviously with the full smorgasbord. But one of the reasons I wanted to start Typhoon was the idea that we don’t need to make the buffet anymore. We don’t need multiplayer and single player and co-op and second screen activity and VR support and 3D TV… You can actually just pick one of these things and focus.”
As examples of games that have done just that, Hutchinson points to Payday 2, Ark: Survival Evolved, and the original Portal as “nice, focused experiences that can compete with AAA on quality level but don’t require 400 people.”
Army of Two: The 40th Day didn’t always reward the player for doing the ‘right’ thing.
One can see how that approach was formed partly from Hutchinson’s own experiences. While at Electronic Arts, Hutchinson was creative director on Army of Two: The 40th Day, a game that had a bit of a split personality. The 40th Day was the sequel to a co-op shooter perhaps best remembered for its “bro” aesthetic, where players were encouraged to bling out their guns in gold or platinum finishes, perhaps encrusting them with diamonds in the process.
That aspect was present in The 40th Day, but so was a jarringly unpredictable morality system, where players presented with specific scenarios could act with the best intentions but produce the worst results. It was an interesting twist on standard video game ethics, but perhaps not the best fit with a game expected to be a turn-your-mind-off celebration of blowing stuff up.
“In retrospect, I probably made a mistake because my general rule was to try and push in a few things, even on big projects, that just made me laugh, or I found fascinating, to try and change someone’s perception a little bit,” Hutchinson said, adding, “It was worth it just for the team to enjoy the process of making it, but it’s very difficult when the sales message of the game is in conflict with your goals for the game. That’s why one has to move. So either I had to win the marketing message argument, which based on the fact it was a sequel was impossible, or I probably should have just doubled down on the bro-tastic nature of it. Ideally it should be completely focused on one audience that likes what you’re building.”
The trick is actually reaching that audience, now that Hutchinson no longer has the benefit of a AAA marketing department behind his work.
“It’s absolutely the most terrifying part,” Hutchinson said. “Everyone’s all App Store or Steam, and I feel sometimes they’re uncurated to an extent that it feels like piling your game into that big bin that used to be at the front of CompUSA. I would trawl through that thing and find something, but I would watch everyone else just walk past it. I don’t think we’ve solved the problem, and I don’t think those two platform holders have any interest in solving the problem because they make a percentage on everybody. As long as you buy something, they make a lot of money. We need to figure out a way to get through that noise, which is why we’ve decided to go with a publisher for this first game. We’re a new IP and a new studio, so we need help making some noise.”
Hutchinson hasn’t needed to work with an external publisher since a stint at Australian developer Torus Games in the early 2000s, back when Hutchinson said the games industry had a very “Wild West” feel to it. He recalled one publisher Torus going through some financial struggles. They had three or four projects going at different studios, but only enough money to bankroll two of them. But rather than trim their slate to a manageable size, the publisher would assess monthly milestones for each project, and determine which teams got paid based on those.
“Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be possible anymore,” Hutchinson said. “The budgets have gone beyond the ability for that to even happen; you need to be a stable publisher to even exist… It’s still the Wild West, don’t get me wrong. The best part is that you can have crazy conversations and someone can stump up a lot of money for a ridiculous idea, people go out of business in five minutes, people can get into the business with no experience and be amazing… There’s all kinds of great parts to the Wild West nature of it, but I think it has stabilized somewhat and people are more adult. It feels more human.”
As for where the industry’s headed in the future, Hutchinson is optimistic, but perhaps not for the reasons one might expect. When asked what he thinks will drive the industry going forward, Hutchinson said it would be “all the boring stuff.”
“People get caught up in the new thing, like VR,” he said. “And I think VR has continued to struggle and show that it maybe isn’t anything at all, whereas digital distribution and being able to set a price point… It doesn’t sound very interesting to people, but it used to be a boxed product or nothing. Then there was free-to-play with a different model, then XBLA or PSN with a different model, and you can set your own price point where you like. It’s a huge deal for independent studios. I think these really practical, dull issues are the big ones driving us forward, and the flashy stuff–motion controls, 3D TV, VR–it’s all smell-o-vision, really.”（source：Gameindustry.biz ）