Thursday, November 29, 2007

Episodic Content soapboxing

One of the email interviews I'm involved in popped the question about episodic content. I thought it was an interesting question with a very soapboxey response, so I'm republishing it here:

"As a developer in general, do you think it's difficult for video games as a popular medium to keep up with more reactionary media -TV, movies, pop music - due to lengthy development cycles? It's hard to be timely when a game takes two years to make, versus the opposite extreme, a talk show which is written, rehearsed, played out, edited and aired all in the same day."

I think a lot of the problem is people trying to make games fit into models that other media use, like TV and movies, instead of discovering the model that works for game development and design.

With linear short-form media like TV, it's almost compulsory to pump out content on a regular basis to keep people interested, just because it has almost no reusability. You're not going to sit down and watch the same episode of "How I Met Your Mother" every day or two with your friends, because you've sucked out the goodness on the first (or second, if you're hardcore) viewing.

With games, we have the opportunity to build these experiences that have much broader reusability. I think the real focus is making sure that developers grow these titles with content that fits, like tournaments, new features through title updates, and especially affordable or sponsored downloadable content.

For single player centric only titles, it comes down to also designing the mechanic and narrative to allow players to participate in a world rather than just crafting some linear narrative that people won't want to sit through again. Mass Effect is a great example of this, while there's a critical path there's also a big fat universe out there that people actively want to go and explore after "beating" the game.