Why Devs Are Important

by Darius Kazemi on July 1, 2006

in Uncategorized

In response to my last post, Brad asks why the publisher/developer of a game should be important to a consumer choosing what game to buy. This is in comparison to graphics, gameplay, and price.

First of all, publishers don’t really factor in for me. They’ve got pretty much nothing to do with the game. So yeah, that’s out the window. But now I’ll explain why developers are important to my purchasing habits (and not just because I’m a game developer).

I read Warren Ellis comics because I like his writing style. Sometimes, I will buy a comic that he’s written, even if everyone says it is bad, because I happen to like him enough to warrant it. And I like it, because I like Ellis’ stuff. Similarly, I will go see films by Richard Linklater because I love his idiosyncratic style.

Many developers, especially the great ones, have a strong stylistic association with their name. If I mention Square-Enix, most people think of RPGs, romantic subplots, and shitty gameplay. If there’s an Atlus game coming out, I know what the character design is going to be like. I will buy anything that Brian Reynolds touches, because I loved Alpha Centauri and Rise of Nations. First-party Nintendo conjurs up thoughts of Miyamoto’s strongly intuitive game design, while Looking Glass is (was) synonymous with the first person action/adventure/RPG. And Maxis has this very specific set of UI conventions and an unparalleled reputation for sandbox gaming.

I could go on, but you get my point. The developer of a game is important to my purchasing decisions because good developers bring a personal (or at least corporate) style to their games. And it’s this sense of style that often separates a great game from a good one.

Without style and a strong authorial mark on a game, things just feel… cookie-cutter.


Aleks July 2, 2006 at 8:42 am

Since I’m working for a group that works with both first and second party developers, I gotta chime in in defense of the publisher. The publisher has a large responsibility for deciding the games that will be developed by a specific developer. (This happens both internally and externally through multitude of Marketing/Design discussions.) The publisher is also heavily responsible now to provide the QA, support and may decide when is the game “good enough” for shipping. (ie. When the games ship with glaring bugs – it’s either insufficient QA or too much date push)
After my personal experiences with Civ4 and other things I’ve heard about Take Two. I will wait at least a month and read forums before any games published by them.

solipsistnation July 2, 2006 at 11:26 am

Well, the developers are more important to me than the publisher, but only a few developers are more important than good reviews… I’ve actually bought games in genres I don’t usually enjoy (“Myth” for one) because the developers are so consistently interesting that I wanted to see what they would do with games outside their normal areas of expertise.

Sometimes this turns around on me, though– while I’d buy a video game based on stealthy flatulance if Looking Glass developed it, Ion Storm has managed to turn from a developer whose games I’d buy sight unseen (I really dug “Anachronox!” So there!) to a developer who, even though they have combined with Looking Glass into what should have been the giant Voltron of game houses, I will now regard with suspicion.

Irrational Games still has some serious cred with me, though, and I await “Bioshock” with bated breath. (Even though I tried the demo of “Freedom Force” and didn’t really like it.)

I have no idea if I’m unusual in this. I probably am.

Patrick Dugan July 3, 2006 at 3:35 pm

As an industry we should take it a step further and focus the credit on autuers, even if that focus hyperbolizes an individual’s role in development. Sure, Richard Garriot probably had about 10% of the role in ensuring Ultima IX was good as he did on Ultima IV, but people can remember and cherish the meme “Richard Garriot” a lot more readily than “Origin Systems”. It makes marketing sense too, for all the reasons you cite.

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