Saturday, February 12, 2011

Missing what might have been: a thought about meta-spoilers

Saturday, February 12, 2011
An 8 year old sketch. A pretty decent
Geoff Darrow bite if I say so myself.
The neologism "meta-spoilers" is intended to get after that peculiar issue common to both game developers themselves and hardcore game fans: nostalgia for the path not taken. For game developers it is a constant companion, sometimes threatening to grind game production into endless series of retrenchment, feature creep, muddled design, etc.

But because I am pursuing a policy of open development, modeling after the pioneering work of Mount & Blade's development and current peers like Wolfire, this also applies to fans. I think open development is absolutely the best policy for small developers, and might actually do some big developers quite a lot of good as well, if they could only wrest their freedom to speak to fans back from their marketing departments. But there are some downsides as compared to the traditional model.

Meta-spoilers don't even require knowledge of the game development while in progress. I know a lot of people who appreciate Half-Life 2 very much, but have effectively meta-spoiled themselves by perusing that Raising the Bar book once too often... a game that triumphantly exists is overshadowed by the knowledge of what might have been. And quite honestly I have exploited this very dynamic explicitly with my Design Reboots.

Open development means sharing the heartbreak. In the coming months my posts will not be lying to you--if I discuss ideas here, or post concepts, or respond to a suggestion with "hey that's a really good idea" I am not blowing smoke if it doesn't end up in the game.

Rather, it's just a part of how games happen, or get caught in an endless loop like Duke Nukem Forever's original development cycles. There's no way out from that trap. At some point the game must collapse down from the more attractive, purely hypothetical realm of possibilities into a finite game that actually is.

I am really looking forward to people getting to know what's been inside my head for a year or more, but I thought this should be said first.

Also, with some mulling it over, I will be posting devblog updates to this site, rather than spinning off into yet another page to maintain (and sooner than later stop updating as a result). All posts will be tagged, so a simple filtering will allow you to view exclusively the development updates.

Discuss this post in the forums


necroid said...

Can't wait to see what this is all about, since I've failed to keep up with the forum...

gauss said...

Don't sweat it Necroid, the forums tend to move at a relaxed pace. Nice to have one you don't feel completely lost if you're not staring at them at least once every hour. I will be posting info here on the blog, as mentioned, but also a lot will be going into the forums, so maybe worth tuning back in :)

Anonymous said...

The irony here is of course that this line of thinking is meta-spoiling meta-spoilers ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm a big, big Half-Life 2 fan. I know all the stuff from Raising the Bar, & the Leak from '03, both of which I saw after playing through HL2. Sure, some of that stuff is neat, but plenty of it either doesn't fit with the final game's story, gameplay or aesthetics. But mostly nothing from the book or the leak was near as good as what was in the fished game & so much of it was redundant.

I guess the fact that I didn't follow the game at all before I played it & had only played HL1 days before HL2 must blind me from the nostalgia, because I sure don't see the appeal.

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Free Online Games said...

Eagerly looking forward to your updates!

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