Come on in, dear boy. Have a cigar. You’re gonna go far. You’re gonna fly high.
But first, we have some notes, after the jump.
We really like what you’ve done, but, well, there are some issues. Have you met Jared? He’s our usability tester. Jared, how many times have you played Dragon Age?
Three times, all the way through. And Dragon Age II two times.
What level are you in Star Wars Old Republic?
I have a level 50 consular, a level 50 sith warrior, and a level 42 agent.
What did you think of the ending of Mass Effect 3?
I hated it. You should change it.
Good boy, Jared. See, this kid knows all the angles. Jared, you also play that other MMO, don’t you?
World of Warcraft, yes.
All right, all right, there’s no need to actually say the name.
I also play all the Elder Scrolls games, and the Final Fantasy games, and the Divine Divinity games, and Xenoblade Chronicles. Especially Xenoblade Chronicles.
All right, Jared, this is a development meeting, not a sales pitch.
But not Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls.
Of course not. Thank you, Jared. The point is, Jared knows what he’s doing. Jared has experience. Jared is from the streets, which is what we call the message boards and the Gamestops and Facebook. Jared uses Twitter. Jared, you use Twitter, right? We had him play your game and we’d like to make a few changes. Let me get my notes. Melissa, be a sweetheart and hand me over that binder. No, the red one with that Dragon Age chick on the front. Did you know we got Claudia Black to do her voice? Or was it Tricia Helfer? One of those.
Claudia Black, sir.
Thank you, Melissa. As you can see, that’s the sort of talent we can bring to your game. I noticed your character doesn’t speak, but we’ve got Claudia Black on contract for two more projects. We’re talking to Stephen Moyer for the male hero. You do watch True Blood, right? Hey, do you like 30 Seconds to Mars? I’m getting ahead of myself. Anyway, we’ll handle all that stuff. You just worry about the game. Speaking of which, here are the things we want to talk to you about.
Jared is concerned that you’re not guiding him through appropriately leveled encounters and bosses. Is he supposed to actually fight that dragon by the lake? What about the huge cyclops lumbering out of the forest? Shouldn’t there be a word or a number in red? Shouldn’t there be a sign?
What’s he supposed to do, decide these things for himself? How is Jared supposed to know where he’s supposed to go and when he’s supposed to go there? What kind of quest system doesn’t have levels so you know when to do them? How is Jared supposed to know if he should keep trying to get past this group of bandits or through that cave?
Jared wants to know why there isn’t any easy fast travel. He got all the way out to that place once, so why can’t he just teleport back out there whenever he wants to come back? What’s he supposed to do, actually go someplace every time he wants to go there? I do that plenty in real life! Who wants to do that in a game? Why can’t Jared teleport between cities? Let’s put some magic portals in those towns, okay?
Okay, let’s talk transportation of goods. Why does a camp let Jared send goods back to the city, to his storehouse, but it doesn’t let him take goods from the city? Jared was way the hell out in the sticks and he wanted to make more incense, but he wasn’t carrying the right components at that time. Are you saying he was supposed to go back to the capital to do that? What is your fixation with that capital city? You act like it’s supposed to matter. Who ever heard of such a thing?
Speaking of that capital city, we have some name suggestions from our lore department. The ones you’re using are just going to sound ridiculous. We have some leftover names from Kingdoms of Amalur you can use. Melissa, be a dear and print out those leftover names. Okay, moving on. Where is the gear churn? Jared, how long have you been wearing that same red leather armor?
For at least ten levels.
Jared, do you have a +1 bow yet?
The regular bow is still fine.
That won’t do. Gear churn means DLC and retail incentives. Basically, we need more gear, more stuff, more magic stuff. Why so stingy? Now I’m not saying you’re not doing some great things. Jared loved the big monster fights. What was the name of that Lord of the Rings movie, Jared, the one with the troll you were telling me about?
Fellowship of the Ring. They have a cave troll.
Do we still have the rights to that one? Melissa, could you be a dear and check with legal on that? Anyway, Jared loved those big battles and thought you did a great job making him feel like he was in that scene in the Lord of the Rings movie with the troll.
I had to climb on the troll and stab him in the back of the head. He was going crazy trying to throw me off, stomping around. Just like the movie.
What was that called again, Jared?
Fellowship of the Ring.
I don’t like it. I’d have gone with something a little snappier. Quest for Destiny. Melissa, see if we can trademark that. Oh, and we love that thing you do where Jared has to plug the game into his Facebook account to upload screenshots. We also really like that whole Mii parade thing you do with the sidekicks. Great system. Connectivity. Online stuff. We love it. Do more stuff like that.
Okay, next issue. Why is nighttime such a big deal? Jared can’t see when it’s night. The lantern thing is cool, but let’s not make it matter so much. You remember when games had batteries for flashlights? Let’s not make that same mistake here. How about we put a big bright moon in the sky, and some glowing mushrooms in the dungeons? Also, sometimes Jared wants to just skip the night, but he can’t. If he’s not at an inn or a camp site, Jared has to wait out nighttime in a cave by actually waiting out nighttime in a cave, like in Minecraft. He has to plan trips around the day/night cycle. Sometimes he wants to fast forward time, just like he wants to fast forward space. Why do you want to deny him that?
Look, kid, the bottom line is that you’ve got this misguided notion that you’re building time and space instead of a videogame experience. We need to get away from that way of thinking. We want to make it easy for the consumer, we want to minimize the pain points, we want to remove obstacles, we want to set up velvet ropes that guide the player to fun. We’re a AAA publisher making AAA games. But this thing you’ve made here? Right now, it plays like something Capcom would publish.