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So let’s talk about VR

26 Jun

I’ve been pretty vocal about my thoughts about VR, both in the past and most recently in an interview I did for gamesindustry.biz. (A few years ago I was pretty vocal about stereopscopic 3D, too, but more about that later.) I’ve consistently thought and said that VR would end up being a fad – not this year’s Next Big Thing or The Future(tm) of gaming, movies or the bringer of peace in our time.

I’ve gotten a lot of responses to that opinion, some of them along the lines of “It’s about time someone said this,” some talking about how wrong I am because VR is so cool and all I need is a demo to make a convert of me.

Let me be clear. I’m enough of a geek to AGREE that VR is cool. I get that. Heck, I supported all the available headsets in a couple of games back in the mid-90s. I can see all sorts of advantages over ordinary, external-screen oriented projects: There’s a sense of scale to VR, a feeling of immersion, a naturalness of some (though just some) aspects of interface and interaction you can’t get anywhere else. I get all that.

I see how cool VR games could be. And I definitely see non-game uses that might ensure VR has SOME place in our 21st century experience.

The question is should we and, more important, WILL we build those games (and non-game applications) and will enough people buy them to make the platform commercially viable.

(And don’t even get me started about all the movie guys getting into VR, afraid they’ll miss the next big thing. VR is NOTHING like movies. In fact, I’d argue that VR demands an approach to content presentation that undercuts literally everything that makes movies unique and wonderful. But that’s another topic for another time…)

Anyway, getting back to the general coolness of VR, my cynicism is largely limited to VR for gaming. For non-gaming purposes, as I said, VR has undeniable and huge potential that really excites me and is likely to appeal to an audience that has no interest in games more “game-y” than Candy Crush Saga. Business, educational and personal users are likely to integrate VR into aspects of their business and personal lives maybe even sooner rather than later.

The low hanging fruit of non-gaming VR is fascinating – VR for virtual meetings, Skype++, training, education and a host of other things seems totally desirable. (For some reason I’m obsessed with the ways in which VR can help phobia sufferers get past their fears. Go figure.). In non-everyday areas of life, the impact of VR seems inevitable and offers a major leap forward in many areas.

All I’m talking about when I trot out the “fad” language is that, for gaming VR is likely to be limited to hardcore players, not the larger casual market. And, though gamers hate hearing this, the business is already turning its focus to the mainstream – not exclusively, but heavily and permanently.

It’s the impact of VR on normal non-game-obsessed humans I’m thinking of when I say VR is a fad. It wouldn’t surprise me if the whole VR thing went away completely. But it would be equally unsurprising if a small group of dedicated geeks who already play games alone or online kept VR going as a niche peripheral, making some money for a handful of VR hardware companies for some time to come.

(And before anyone cites the “enormous” sales of consoles and the audience for online PC games, let’s compare that with the number of people who have smart phones in their pockets right now. The community of real gamers looks pretty small to me in that context.)

But let’s talk about another way to look at new media. Let’s talk a little about the history of technology adaptation as it relates to VR’s its “inevitable” dominance of the media scene.

I realize history isn’t a perfect predictor of the future, but look at technology adaptation historically, and you see something interesting. (At least I find it interesting.)

Adaptation of successful technologies tends to be fairly linear – after some semi-relevant experiments, movies began in the 1890s and grew steadily into a generally accepted part of life. The advent of sound was important, but it’s not like the movies would have ceased to exist without it.

Television was introduced experimentally in the 1930s, with no expectation of commercial success. Upon its release to the public, it has been with us ever since, growing in influence and cultural impact all the while. The advent of color was an important, but evolutionary step without which the medium would have continued unchecked and unstoppable.

Same for radio, personal computers, telephones, mobile phones, stereophonic sound (and successive enhancements), even games themselves.

Successful technologies develop in closed-door experimentation and, upon release, meet a need and develop without breaks. People vote with their dollars for the things they want, those things become part of their lives and they remain so. “Disruption” really isn’t much of an issue once a tech takes hold.

What we see with VR (and stereoscopic 3D) is very different. In both cases, the technology was touted as The Next Big Thing before anyone had any reason to expect that experimental and clearly non-commercial iterations were released commercially. And, most interesting to me, is that they appear, go away, return, go away and return again every N years to rescue some creatively or financially challenged business. The predictable appearance and disappearance – and the seeming blindness and lack of historical memory – kind of amuses me, if you want to know.

Stereoscopic 3D is a case in point. Stereo presentations were popular in the 1890s… and the 1920s… and the 1950s… and the 1980s… and in the 2010s… See the pattern? Every 30 years stereo comes and then it goes. Every time. It was trivial to call out the latest round of 3D movies, televisions and games as a fad that would become irrelevant if not disappear completely. (And, yes, I know 3D movies are still around, but I’d argue they survive because their premium price point helps make up for the mediocre grosses. And with that, I’ll never work in Hollywood, I guess.)

And then we have VR. It was proclaimed as The Future in the 1980s. The New York Times and other mainstream media waxed rhapsodic about it at the time. VR was The Future in the 1990s. It skipped a decade and is now The Future in the 2010s. Yes, optics and head-tracking are getting better. But fundamental problems with the technology still exist that exist well outside the technological advances we’ve seen – headsets that isolate rather than pull people together, can’t be called fashion statements and cause nausea in many users… These are still with us and likely to stay with us. They’re fundamental elements of the experience and they have minimized the impact of VR each time someone gets a burr up their butt about taking the first step toward the holodeck and tries to commercialize it.

So I’ll stand by my VR thoughts.Yes, VR is cool. Technologists and early adaptors love it. But I still think there are challenges ahead. Some of these — cost… quality of optics… lag in head-tracking…– will be solved over time. However, there are others that seem less solvable to me. And it bothers me enough to scream “Fad” because, in part, no one even bothers to address them, so blinded are they by VR’s undeniable coolness. Maybe to shut me up, VR fans simply have to acknowledge problems and engage in dialogue about how to solve them. I’m not an unreasonable guy. Okay, maybe I am, but I’m always open to being proved wrong. It’s just that no one has yet, when it comes to VR.

So… someone tell me you can design and wear a VR headset that doesn’t look stupid and make the user look even more stupid… Tell me how VR can help people – family and friends – engage with one another rather than isolating them…Tell me how a VR game can be both played by an immersed player and still be enjoyed by other people in the room who can’t see what the player is experiencing… Tell me why VR headsets will be the first ever peripheral not bundled with hardware people already want that formed the basis of a successful business. No one I can think of has created a successful business on the basis of a peripheral.

I simply don’t see how those fundamental aspects of the VR experience will be solved. Unless I’m missing something, they can’t be, without fundamentally changing the experience (which means we’d be talking about something other than VR anyway, making this whole conversation/argument moot).

I realize I may look like an idiot in 5 or 10 years. I know lots of you ALREADY think I’m an idiot. But I think it’s too early to tell whether I’m right or simply biased by my prejudices. Similarly, folks enamored of the coolness of VR are equally guilty of being blinded by that coolness – people who tout the potential of VR to be an inevitable game-changer and/or a disruptor express no other argument ASIDE from coolness.

So rather than focusing exclusively on creative compelling experiences and ignoring serious limitations and challenges ahead, let’s acknowledge that there are real barriers to commercial success beyond some very specific needs and relatively small audiences. The prevailing attitude and argument seems to be “if you build it (and the price point and optics improve) they will come.” And I’m not buying it.

What would this dialogue look like if you weren’t allowed to say “cool” or “compelling” or “creative?” What if you had to say “I see the non-creative challenges and here’s how to solve them?” That seems like a constraint that should be informing the VR discussion before we all get carried away.

Coolness isn’t enough to tout any technology (or anything else) as The Future of anything.

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I’m Captivated – and in need of assistance

24 Sep

In just a couple of weeks – October 6-8, to be precise, the first Captivate conference is taking place in Austin, TX.

http://captivateconference.com/

Obviously, given that it’s in my home town and I’m speaking at the conference, I’m a tad prejudiced, but I think Captivate is shaping up to be something pretty cool.

For starters, there’s the thing that got me most jazzed in the first place – the cross-media nature of the event. Austin’s such a big games, music and movie town, I had a head-slapping moment when the organizers said they were going to try to bring those communities together, instead of keeping them at arms length from one another, the way most conferences seem to do. How is it no one’s done that before? Sheesh!

And now that we’re getting closer to the date, attendance looks like it’ll be good, there’ll be live streaming of events and even opportunities to get up on a stage and pitch startup ideas whether you’re an official speaker or not. (Don’t ask me how that’s going to work – I just think it’s cool.)

Anyway, given that we’re a week and a half away from C-Day, you’d think I’d have my talk all wrapped up and ready to go, but that’s not the way I work. Oh, I’ve got plenty of material, but I’d like to get some input and additional material from you folks before I get up on stage, locked and loaded and ready to talk.

So, whether you’re attending Captivate or not, I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me on Games Leadership. That’s the topic of my talk, and while I have a fair amount of experience to draw from and (shocking!) lots of opinions, I wanted to draw on the wisdom of the crowd here and get some thoughts from you.

Here’s kind of what I’m looking for:

  • Who are gaming’s leaders?
  • How did they become the leaders they are?
  • Is there a difference between creative and business leadership (i.e., between game direction and game production or between studio leadership and discipline leadership)?
  • Does the game business do a good enough job training, evaluating and growing its leaders?
  • Is anyone, whether in development, publishing or academia rigorously training game leaders? Who? How?
  • What have been some of the best (and worst) experiences you’ve had that could be credited to or laid at the feet of great (or poor) leadership? (And, yes, everyone who’s worked for and with me is welcome to gang up on me here… I’m tough. I can take it.

I’m even looking to talk about how leadership might differ when you move from medium to medium, so feel free to chime in on film or music leadership, too!

That’s just a sample – if there are other leadership-oriented topics I’ve left out, answer questions I didn’t even think to ask. Basically, the more data points I have, the broader the perspective I can take, the better the talk’s going to be. So share. Talk to me about leadership – good and bad… How one becomes a leader – sensibly and not so sensibly… What role leadership plays in game development and publishing and how that’s changed over the years. Help a guy out here, wouldja?

And if you happen to see me at Captivate, come on over and say Hi. It’s Austin. We’re friendly.

Thanks!

Warren

GTA V. Great game? Probably. Great review? Definitely.

18 Sep

Want to read a great game review (great review, I mean – I have no opinion about the game yet)? Try this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/arts/video-games/grand-theft-auto-v-is-a-return-to-the-comedy-of-violence.html?pagewanted=all

Nice, right?

QUIBBLES
My only real quibble with Chris Suellentrop’s review is that he’s more forgiving of misogyny and the “fun” of virtual violence than I might be. Here’s Sam Houser on the topic of misogyny:

“I mean, I suppose we could have done it, early enough on – with a female character.”

Leaving aside the fact that Suellentrop was able to get one of gaming’s more reclusive figures to speak out, I think the discussion was about more than just player avatars – Suellentrop seemed to have been pointing out that all the female characters in the series are treated badly. But, hey, if next time around we get cool female avatars in a GTA game, that’s a win, right?

So, yeah, much as I like the review, I feel that Suellentrop lets GTA V off the hook too easily for its content “issues.” Of course, in the spirit of total honestly, that has to be qualified by the fact that I’ve always found it nearly impossible to get past the content and story choices the GTA team offers. I try, really, I try, but I always seem to find the content too much to bear, even when the gameplay is rock solid.

And in this case, Suellentrop makes a solid case for the gameplay, assessing it in highly positive (and likely accurate) terms. My squeamishness is easily countered. Feel free to ignore me on this…

THE IMPORTANT THING
The important thing is not who likes or doesn’t like the content, or even who does or doesn’t like the gameplay – the important thing is that this review told me everything I needed to know to decide whether to buy the game or not. And then it went on to tell me what place the game might play (sorry for the pun) in a larger cultural context.

Wow.

I read the review and knew to expect open world stuff on a whole new level, more options available to me than ever, great music, visuals that will blow me away, content that makes me go “ugh” and a story that makes me go “meh.” (Okay, I made those last two up – that’s me talking not the reviewers! Bad Warren!)

But all of that being given, the thing I found most compelling, was as Suellentrop put it, the game “evokes and satirizes the anxieties of 21st-century life. There’s a fake Facebook (LifeInvader), a fake Twitter (Bleeter), a fake Apple (Fruit), a fake Kickstarter (Beseecher), a fake “50 Shades of Grey” (“Chains of Intimacy”), even a fake Call of Duty (Righteous Slaughter 7, a first-person shooter game that advertises itself with the tagline “The identical art of contemporary killing”).”

Oh, yeah, I’m in. Facebook as LifeInvader? Twitter as Bleeter? That kind of self-consciousness and cultural awareness are right up my alley – just what it takes to crank a game up to 11. A less well-conceived and executed review might not have twigged me to all that was going on in the game; this one did. If only all game reviews were like that!

So, I’ve read the review. I’ve thought through my history with the series. Will I buy and play GTA V?

Yeah. Sure.

You kind of have to if you call yourself a gamer or game developer, right I’m just hoping I can get past the content this time…

REVIEW AS CONVERSATION-STARTER
Whether you’re a curmudgeonly developer, a gamer, a parent, a reviewer or a game-hating politician, go read this review. At the very least it’ll make a great conversation starter. And we need more adult conversation around games – the way they play, the ideas they express and their place in the broader media/cultural world.

And that conversation doesn’t have to end with debate about the merits of a single game. One might just as easily use it as a jumping off point for a discussion of my current fave topic – the state of games criticism today.

SERIOUS CRITICISM IS ALIVE AND ALMOST WELL
Thanks to many of you, I’m starting to find that the kind of writing and thinking I see in the New York Times is more common than I thought, There’s more quality games criticism out there than I expected. Sadly, if unsurprisingly, most of it is found on gamer-oriented websites, which still leaves the NY Times as one of the few outlets – maybe the only one – that reaches normal humans. But, luckily, the Times critics are doing a fine job.

And that leads to what I consider to be a Big Question…

A BIG QUESTION
Does either Stephen Totilo or Chris Suellentrop have a large enough body of work – more importantly, a philosophically coherent body of work – to justify a collection of reviews in printed or ebook form?

Such a collection, with an introductory section outlining the critical foundation supporting all the individual reviews, could be our “I Lost It at the Movies,” our “Confessions of a Cultist,” or our “The Private Eye, The Cowboy and the Very Naked Girl.” (And if you don’t know those books, look ’em up.)

Someone should publish that book. Now. I’d blurb that book in a heartbeat. Heck, I’d write the foreword, if anyone asked! And then I’d start bugging Totilo and Suellentrop to tackle the little job of writing the games version of “The American Cinema.” At this point, there’s no one I’d trust more to do the job right.

A BIGGER QUESTION
Back to GTA V – anyone know whether I should play on Xbox or PS3? That’s one thing Suellentrop and the Times didn’t tell me!

Responses to my last Games Industry International column

26 Jul

Hey there! It’s been years since I’ve posted anything here – let’s not go into why that is, okay? – and I have no idea how regularly I’ll be posting anything in the future. But I had something to say and this seemed like the place to say it.

See, over the last few months, the fine folks over at gamesindustry.biz have given me some of their website to sound off about pretty much anything game-related that happens to get my shorts in a knot. And, as if that weren’t enough, they’ve even given me some space to respond to comments about all that ranting and raving.

But recently I gave them two columns in a row covering different aspects of games criticism (see “sorry state of”) and rightly suggested that, rather than respond to comments – making it FOUR times I’d written about the topic – ahem… It might be time to move on to other things. When you put it that way, it’s hard to disagree!

So I’m  working on a new column… having nothing to do with games criticism (promise!). But I’m like a dog with a bone and couldn’t leave readers of my last column with the last word. So I asked the GI folks if I could post my responses somewhere, they said yes, and here they are – responses to responses. Enjoy. Feel free to rerespond. If I get enough reresponses, I may chime in again. Who knows? We’ll see how it goes.

Before I get to the meat of things, I want to remind people of something I said when I started writing for GI in the first place – I said I wasn’t interested in pontificating or telling anyone The Truth about tough issues. That’s still true. The column was – and is – supposed to be about issues I don’t feel I fully understand and about questions for which I have ideas but not answers. (Not that this means I won’t pontificate at all – I like pontificating!)

Anyway, looking at the responses to my first three columns, I suspect some readers are viewing these things as lectures rather than the dialogue I intend them to be. That’s clearly my problem, as the guy writing these things, not something I can lay on readers, but, still, it’s something worth restating, I think.

(You know, now that I think about it, dialogue between writer and audience isn’t far removed from the virtual dialogue between developer and player in all the games I’ve worked on. That’s actually kind of cool…)

Okay, that out of the way, on to the column comments and my responses:

Many of you said that our medium has no need of a Roger Ebert or anyone of his ilk.
First, let me explain one thing – I do not believe games criticism literally needs a “Roger Ebert.” Where did anyone get that idea? I wasn’t trying to say we need “celebrity critics” or “big names,” as one magazine editor opined in a response to my thoughts. I do think we need a cadre of people whose work bridges the gap between reviews and academic writing. That’s all. Plain and simple – at least I thought so.

So why mention Ebert at all (and why will I almost certainly continue to do so)?

That’s simple, too. It’s because I thought I needed at least one example of a media critic whose work went beyond simple “It’s great/It sucks” thinking, someone whose name and work might be recognizable and worth caring about, whether you agreed with his pronouncements or not. I figure most people aren’t familiar with the current New York Times critics or the New Yorker folks or pretty much anyone who writes for some of the more serious film magazines out there. And I suspect most of you (not all, but most) don’t know who Pauline Kael was, or Judith Crist or Andrew Sarris, let alone Manny Farber or, going back even further, Hugo Munsterberg, Vachel Lindsay and Harry Alan Potamkin. Ebert is an example or the sort of thing we need, not specifically and literally what we need.

Even though I didn’t always agree with Ebert when I was living in Chicago, his base of operations… Okay, cards on the table, I rarely agreed with him. But even when I thought he was nuts, I always respected the fact that he had a point of view, against which I could measure my own ideas about film and, in that way, predict with some accuracy which films I might like. Ditto for Pauline Kael and Judith Christ, two writers whose work didn’t make me a fan, but whose work clearly demanded respect.

FWIW, I was always more of a Sarris/Farber fan with strong positive feelings about Thompsen and a guy named Robert Warshow. If you don’t know who these people are, check them out – I bet their work is somewhere online. (And, yes, I’m aware of the irony of sending you to the Internet when I’m arguing for more print exposure…)

Anyway, I wasn’t trying to say we need Roger Ebert, or that you should like the same people I like. I was just trying to say you should seek out critics whose work you do like, and from whom you can learn about the games medium. Oh… wait… Those people don’t exist. Not in sufficient numbers and not in the right places with the right placement.

(Oh, yeah. One more thing: I’m stunned no one pointed out the irony of citing Roger Ebert as an example of what games criticism needs when he, along with his TV partner, Gene Siskel, pioneered the thumbs up/thumbs down thinking I hate so much. You can thank me later for giving you another way to discount my entire argument!)

A lot of you took me to task for suggesting that games criticism needed to be on store shelves because everyone who might be interested is living online.
I certainly can’t argue that things are trending this way – just look at the trouble print publications and television are having these days.

But I think it’s premature to say “The net has won and anyone who says different is an old fogey. “

I’ll cop to being a bit of an old fogey, but old fogey-dom not withstanding, there are a lot of fogey-ish people like me. Sure, maybe “everyone” plays social games or mobile games. But very (very!) few of them are reading gaming websites. To reach them you have to go where they are, at least for now. And where they are is on the old media end of the spectrum. We can either wait until they all die or we can go after them now.

I prefer not to wait. Your mileage may vary.

Frankly, I don’t think this has to be an either/or proposition – you young whippersnappers can elevate the level of criticism online and other less snappy whippers can elevate the level in traditional media. Done. Everyone wins.

If you want to argue that gamers are the only ones who matter, sure. They… we… are online. But in saying that, acknowledge that you just don’t care about people out there who don’t care about games or who have what we might consider an inaccurate or limited view of our medium.

Personally, I think gamers could benefit from an education in critical thinking about the medium. But even if you disagree with me, telling non-gamers to take a hike – saying they simply don’t matter – is shortsighted, at best. We need and want them on our side. And that means finding them where they live, not expecting them to come visit us where we are.

Lots of you – even some who agreed with me, for the most part, suggested that critics of the sort I talked about were lucky to have forums like the Chicago Sun-Times or The New Yorker. Games lack such forums so it’s unfair of me to expect such criticism.
This is true enough, as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Think about it. It wasn’t ALWAYS the case that film critics (or television critics or even book critics) had easy access to an audience eager to lap up every bon mot dripping from their ruby-red lips.

Critics of new media have always had to fight for column inches, airtime or shelf space. It takes time to develop an audience for serious criticism. It takes people willing to fight for those column inches, for that airtime and for that shelf space. It takes people who think the effort is worthwhile when the cultural establishment and even media consumers think they’re nuts. Go back fifty years and you’d hear the same kind of nonsense about movies that you hear today about games: It’s just movies, right? Who cares about the movies as art form or cultural force? Well, now, nearly everyone does. Go back fifty years and almost no one did.

Only by ignoring or being ignorant of history can we say the movie guys had it easy, had ready outlets for their work. They didn’t. But they didn’t give up. Games, it seems to me, are at their own fifty-year tipping point. Time to start taking ourselves seriously, I think. Time to start fighting for a soapbox from which we can be heard.

A lot of you took my thoughts as a misguided plea for mainstream attention, or jealousy of other media, or medium-insecurity. Call it the “Mommy, Daddy, please love me” problem – something better addressed in therapy than in a GI column.
If I felt in any way that we need mainstream attention out of insecurity or something, I’d agree completely. However, I harbor no doubts about gaming’s position among the more traditional art forms. No insecurity here…well, not about that, at any rate!

What I was trying to say is that, to mature and grow as a medium, we need to stop talking only to each other. We need to draw people into our sphere from outside. We need people, gamers and non-gamers (well, mostly gamers!) who can help us understand how what we do instinctively can be done more consciously and, yes, better than we can do it ourselves.

We need to reach outside our sphere to continue to grow our audience by explaining to the unwashed masses how wondrous games can be. Heck, if nothing else this might get politicians, pundits and preachers (to say nothing of the courts) off our back!

One familiar refrain from readers of my last column was “How can you say all games criticism sucks? Don’t you know about website X, magazine Y or book Z?”
Misunderstandings like this are always the fault of the writer not the reader. I’ll own that. But, to clarify, I was not saying that all games criticism sucked. Not at all. I even tried to name some folks I thought were doing a pretty good job. What I wanted – and still want – is more, more, more. I’m greedy! And I think there’s room to stir a new kind of criticism into the mix.

By way of example, let me go back to my days as a young and ever so serious movie buff. I had strong opinions about movies… personal preferences about the films I loved and hated… But reading the work of people like William K. Everson and Kevin Brownlow fired an appreciation for silent films… Reading John Grierson and Jack Ellis made me look at documentaries in new ways. Reading Ed Lowry and, yes, Roger Ebert, forced me to look at exploitation films and B-movies as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes.

(Note that I rattled off a whole new list of names there – the world of film criticism is full of serious mainstream critics. Give me time and I can name a bunch more. Try that with games and you’ll run out of critics in a real hurry…)

As a consumer, increased knowledge led me insist on different kinds of work. As a creator, I was inspired, maybe even forced, to create different sorts of things than I would have otherwise. These writers taught me things I might never have learned on my own – things that changed the way I thought about movies. They’ve even affected the way I think about my work as a game developer.

Finally, some of you – not many, but enough to bring it up here – think things are just fine as they are.
Obviously, I disagree with this or I wouldn’t have taken up so much of your time and GI’s web space!

Look, by all means, continue to write reviews, all you reviewers out there (with upgraded standards, please!).

By all means continue to explore the semiology of games, all you academics reading this.

But most of all, I urge those of you who want to grow as individuals, as consumers of the popular arts (not just games) to start seeking and demanding more. There are critical models we can borrow from other media until we create some new models of our own. Let’s take some lessons and change ourselves, our medium and, yes, even the wider world outside our little corner of the world in which we live.

Hyperbole? Maybe. But I don’t think so…

Oh, and to the guy who said something along the lines of “Before you write about something learn something about it,” I’ll just say this – talk to me in 30 years, kid. No. Seriously. I really hope I’m around in 30 years to be talked to. Look me up and tell me if you still feel the same way you do now…

Comic Con!

10 Jul

Well, I guess since the news is up on the official Comic Con 2010 website it’s okay for me to tell everyone I’ll be in San Diego in a couple of weeks to talk about the game and… wait for it… Disney Epic Mickey comic book action!

I’ve been working with Peter David… okay… let me repeat that… I’ve been working with Peter David! (Have I said recently what a lucky guy I am? Oh, yes, I am.) So I’ve been working with Peter David and some really talented artists on comic stories for a while and can’t wait to talk about it.

If you’re planning on attending San Diego Comic Con be sure to stop by our panel on Saturday, July 24, from 4:30-5:30, Room 9. Here’s the description from the Comic Con website:

Disney Epic Mickey— Warren Spector (creative director, Junction Point — Disney Interactive Studios) and Peter David (award-winning comics writer and author of upcoming Disney Epic Mickey comics) share their insights about bringing the world and characters of the Disney Epic Mickey video game to life in two media — video games and comic books. Warren and Peter explore “Wasteland,” a world of forgotten, retired and rejected creative efforts from the Disney archives, and discuss the joy and challenges associated with writing for Mickey Mouse and his “brother,” Walt Disney’s first cartoon star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The panel includes discussion, gameplay demo featuring never-before-seen areas, concept art, previews of comic pages and Q&A.

There’s been some talk about doing autograph sessions, too, but I don’t have any details. Hey, I can’t imagine the Comic Con crowd wanting my autograph but Peter David? That’s a different story! And we might have some art talent with us, too. Anyway, I’ll post something when I know more.

I’ve never attended Comic Con before as anything but a fan. This is going to be fun!

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 5

26 Jun

Okay, so what could top the 3DS at E3? Well how about the response to Disney Epic Mickey?

I talked to so many people – easily in triple digits – and got to see even more playing the game in the booth (as I ran from the Disney area to somewhere else). And by the end of the show, we’d been nominated for at least 22 awards – won 15, lost 2 and there are still, as of today, 7 we’re waiting to hear about. Go Mickey! Go Junction Point team! I don’t want to brag (too much!) so, for a full rundown on what happened – and to stay on top of what’s to come – check out the Junction Point and Disney Interactive Studios web pages or, maybe even better, go to the Facebook pages for Disney Epic Mickey, Junction Point and Disney Interactive Studios. Oh, and there’s even a Disney Epic Mickey You Tube channel, and of course David Garibaldi‘s stuff, too. Tons of cool stuff to see!

Finally, before I forget (as if!), this year’s E3 will live on in my memory as the E3 where I GOT TO MEET SHIGERU MIYAMOTO AND STAN LEE! IN THE SAME WEEK! I’m pretty sure I jibbered like an idiot on both occasions – definitely had to put my head between my knees briefly on meeting Mr. Miyamoto… and I vaguely remember telling Stan Lee I was NOT a stalker at least 15 times… which, of course, branded me as a stalker immediately. Sigh.

Both gentlemen lived up to my expectations and then some – in my experience, heroes usually do. (It’s what makes them heroes, I guess.) These are guys who changed my life – Mr. Miyamoto’s work pushes me to do better in my own… And Stan Lee introduced me to a world of heroes and villains I still live in today. I remember vividly buying Fantastic Four #13 (The Red Ghost issue) and Spider-Man #2 (The Vulture!), back in 1963 and having my 8-year-old mind blown. Getting to tell Stan Lee about that was priceless.

(BTW, if anyone who was at the Nintendo Press Conference rehearsal took any pictures of the magical – if embarrassing – moment when I was introduced to Mr. Miyamoto, please get in touch. I’d sure love a photographic record of a real career highlight!)

So that’s it. My E3 experience. All I have to say is this:

Best.

Week.

Ever!

If you feel like it, let me know what blew YOU away at E3 this year – remember, I saw almost nothing!…

E3 2010 or “Two Rooms, Eight Walls and the Coolest Thing Ever,” Part 4

25 Jun

Nintendo got 3D right – righter than anyone else. Ever. By far. Think about the 3DS – just the basics:

  • No glasses required!
  • No image degradation or color saturation loss compared with 2D displays!
  • Parallax control so viewers can adjust the images so the 3D effect is perfect for them, not for some average person with an average distance of 2.5 inches between his/her eyes.

But that’s just based on the basics, as I said. Wait, there’s more. I was backstage at the Nintendo Press Conference on Tuesday, June 15th, and as each new 3DS feature was described, my jaw got closer and closer to the ground. It’s a game machine… it’s 3D… it has a gyroscope and accelerometer built in… It has Wi-Fi connectivity and shares data with other 3DS’s in the background… It has a 3D CAMERA!… and it PLAYS 3D MOVIES WITHOUT GLASSES!… I swear if they’d said it was a phone, too, I would have dashed back onto the stage and snatched the prototype and run like the wind! I half expected to hear it would tuck me in at night!

When I got my hands on the 3DS at the show, I was blown away again. The feature set sounds good but the proof is in the pudding – in the product. And Nintendo’s got some mighty tasty stuff coming. Pilot Wings – incredible. Nintendogs – even cuter than before and more engaging. Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid – gorgeous. Kid Icarus is coming back plus there’s a Mario Kart, plus a new Zelda(!!!!!)! Not a bad set of games to brag about as you’re launching a new piece of hardware. And there was a tech demo, shooting game that was probably my favorite thing of all. The movie trailers were outrageous – best 3D visuals I’ve seen. Tangled looked great and How to Train Your Dragon was a revelation. Both were sharp, clear, convincing. Every title – movie or game – was a hardware-selling brand, each one looked cool and each was genuinely enhanced in some way by the 3D effect.

The 3D effect is basically perfect. I mean PERFECT. And the games and movie trailers shown on 3DS were stunning, enhanced and flat-out cooler than they could possibly have been in 2D. I was on the fence about 3D when I entered the Nintendo booth. By the time I left, I was floored.

I was completely wrong about 3D. Not a fad. Not going away. Here for good – and that’s a good thing. Nintendo deserves to sell a gazillion of these things. And I want the first one off the line!

As a consumer, I’m in. Sign me up. Price no object (or not much of one). As a game developer, well, sign me up for that, too. How do you design a game that really exploits stereoscopic 3D? Beats me… How do we take advantage of a 3D camera built into a gaming device? No idea… How do we integrate gyroscopes and accelerometers into control schemes? Got some ideas but nothing solid… I mean, how could anyone NOT want to play with this tech?

I’ve been hoping something like this would come along since Origin and Looking Glass supported VR headsets in Wings of Glory and System Shock back in the mid-’90s, but I never actually believed it would happen. Well, it’s happened. The Nintendo 3DS changed everything for me.

Please, please, let it be the success it deserves to be. And all you TV manufacturers out there (or Sharp at least), get with the program and let me buy a TV that’s as cool as Nintendo’s little game machine. I know there are issues with view angles on parallax barrier technology, but come on, get cracking, solve the problems and let me give you a bunch of money so I can have my 3D, okay?

I should stop. I know it. But the 3DS is – seriously – the coolest hardware I’ve ever seen at E3… It’s nothing short of magical, both in the effect the stereoscopic stuff had on me and in the way the tech works. Not that I really understand how it works – not yet anyway! The 3DS was – dare I say it? – almost Disney-like in the magical feeling it evoked in me and I suspect you’ll have a similar reaction when you get your hands on it. And note that I said “when,” not “if.” That was no accident. Trust me – you’re gonna want and you’re gonna get a Nintendo 3DS.

Okay. Let me catch my breath. Two more things tomorrow and then I’m outta here and onto other things. (I’m really going to try to keep this blogging thing going from now on!)