Love: The Missing Ingredient in Modern Game Development

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posted 9/6/2012 by Jeremy Duff
other articles by Jeremy Duff
Platforms: Multiple
Back in 2010, during my review of Transformers: War for Cybertron, I mentioned a specific moment in the game that really set the tone for the entire experience; this one situation made one of my oldest and dearest childhood dreams come true. One section of the game had me jumping into an abyss as Starscream, in desperation during a firefight with those pesky Autobots. Rather than plummeting to my death, without hesitation I transformed into a jet, seconds before certain death and flew to safety.

It was amazing; it made me feel like I was actually a Transformer. It was as if I was a 5 year old kid again; what I once acted out using plastic figures, the steps of my front porch, and scrap pieces of wood had come as close to reality as it was ever going to get. It was truly an amazing experience for me and one that I never expected to experience again. As luck would have it, it did happen again. I recaptured that same feeling again recently. As a matter of fact, it happened to me again, and again, and again, all thanks to High Moon Studios’ Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.

There is a certain magic to be found in an experience such as the one I described above. I am sure that people of all generations feel it in some sense, but those of us who are “children of the eighties” especially, have a special connection with our imaginations and the characters that filled them during our childhood. Acting out things like that with your Transformers, GI Joe, and He-Man figures wasn’t just something that you did to pass the time; it was a way of life and almost a rite of passage for our generation. This doesn’t only apply to boys either, I am sure girls will tell you tales of bringing their Care Bears or My Little Pony’s to life, even if they were the only one’s who witnessed it.


Now, as adults, many of us long for the days that once were, to recapture those feelings. If we could only go back in time and just play out one more scene or re-enact one more battle and forget everything else in the world... life would be “better”, if only for a moment. Some of you, out there in the world understand what I am trying to say; at least I know that the staff at High Moon Studios does.

They get it. They remember that feeling and the joy that it brought to many of us. That is why they have been so successful in their creation of the Cybertron series; they are taking the dream scenarios that they, and so many others, played out using toys as a kid and bringing them as close to reality as humanly possible through their video games. They have a pure love for the material that they are working with and it shows. And for that, I not only commend them, but also thank them.

The best part about this ingredient, this “love”, is that if it truly exists, it transcends the project itself. Having met and talked with many of the members of High Moon personally, I can assure you that this project isn’t about crafting a AAA, best selling title. Sure, they are likely to do so as a bi-product of their efforts (and their publisher expects it) but the most important thing to those involved in the Cybertron series is the replication of those childhood memories on an epic scale. In a time when development houses and publishers are criticized for throwing together roughshod  sequels and projects just to turn a quick dime, it is refreshing to see a project approached in this manner.

It is this love (and respect) that makes the all of the difference in the world. Don’t grandmothers always tell their grandchildren that love was the most important ingredient in cooking; I guess that concept transcends the culinary world. Love appears to make a difference in everything, even video games. If all games were able to capture these sorts of magic moments, we wouldn’t be worrying about Metacritic scores or financial accolades. All of those things could come naturally along with some intangibles that you can’t put a metric on.


One such intangible is the relationship between the player and the development house. Games like this create and strengthen those relationships. This is how loyalty is built; this is how dedicated fans are born and repeat buyers are secured. I am sure that there are other games out there that have produced similar moments for other gamers. If you have experienced this sort of thing, then you know exactly what I am talking about. If you haven’t, then hopefully it will in the near future. It truly is a magical experience and one that will make you appreciate games in a new light.

Perhaps more developers, and publishers, should take notice on the effect this sort of dedication has on the final product. We need to stop being slaves to ratings and sales numbers and starting dedicating ourselves to crafting the types of experiences that tap into our dreams and imaginations; that applies to both sides of the game. Developers need to change how they make their games and we, as gamers, need to change how we play them. When that happens, we won’t be worrying about whether or not a development house will survive to make their next game. Instead, they will be the ones worrying about whether or not they can meet the demand that the gaming public has for their projects.




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