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Having tea and playing tennis with Vince D. Weller (part 2)
Posted By Pavlos - 05/07/08

Discuss!

So, here is the promised part two of the epic, extreme, and ground breaking interview with Mr. Vince D. Weller of Iron Tower Studio. Get part 1 here.

* * * *

What are your thoughts on "Jack Bauer in space" syndrome (i.e. the growing trend to remove the choice between good and evil from RPGs)?


I haven't played Mass Effect, so I can't comment on the qualities of the game or the "Bauer in space" syndrome, but here is what I think about good and evil choices:

Good and evil are subjective concepts and I think that developers should never present the player with clearly marked "good" and "evil" options. Since [this is] a Star Wars site, let's use the Anakin's fall in Ep. 3. From his perspective the mistrustful and arrogant Jedi Council plotted against and tried to assassinate the chancellor chosen by everyone, the chancellor who supported and trusted him. Was siding with the chancellor and turning against the Jedi an evil act? Not at all. Anakin was given reasons to act the way he did, and that's how RPGs should be designed.

Sides in conflicts and choices should never be black and white, good and evil. There should be reasons for acting this way or that way, for supporting the Jedi or sticking with the Sith, for saving a village or letting them die. Then and only then someone will judge your actions and slap labels like "good" or "evil" on them. People who are with us are "good", people who are against us are "evil". Isn't how it usually works?

In AoD there are no default enemies and no good and evil choices. You make decisions that make sense to your character, you side with people and factions that you agree with the most, and then some factions will see you as a great guy and some factions will see you as an evil bastard who should be killed with extreme prejudice.

* * * *

It seems that a stock question to developers is "Which aspect of the game are you proudest of?" I'm going to buck the trend and ask you about the most disappointing, or unsuccessful aspect of AoD.

Good question. It's hard to answer it though because we spent the last year tearing down anything that wasn't good enough (quests, visual design, mechanics, etc) and replacing it with something better. As you probably know, we've shown every aspect of the game to our fans, listened to the criticism, and taken notes. Lots and lots of notes. It's a tough process. You show people something it took you years to make, something you didn't sleep many nights for, and then they tear it apart, without mercy, without pity, without compassion. It takes a lot of getting used to, but once you are used to it, you realize that this is the most effective way to make games.

This approach was described as:

  • Designer develops strong vision internally
  • Designer then seeks criticism and suggestions around that vision.
  • Designer and critics argue relative merits.
  • Designer improves his vision accordingly.

So, while I dislike seeing "no, everything's great" replies to questions like that, our design approach ensures that all weak spots get enough spotlight and promptly eliminated. See this thread for details.

Letís say a scene that you loved, something that you believed was absolutely integral to your creative vision for Age of Decadence, was smashed to pieces before your very eyes by your forum community, how would you respond and what would you do? Would you scrap it or would you keep it despite the cries of anguish?

Iím wondering how far this feedback thing goes and whether or not youíd be willing to sacrifice what you desperately wanted for, what I can only describe as, pandering to the mainstream.

We don't include or throw out anything simply because someone loves it or hates it. The most important phase is "Designer and critics argue relative merits". So, if our critics could prove that some feature, element, or scene I love and cherish is actually stupid or poorly designed, then yes, I'll throw it out without reservations and thank people for helping me to see the errors in my design.

Here is a thing. The longer you work on a game, the harder it is to notice flaws. It's easy to think that a poorly thought through idea is a good idea. It's easy to like a stupid idea. Once these things are in a game, it's very hard to notice them, to realize that something is wrong. They make sense to you, so you are blind to them. That's where the critics come in.

We are making a game for the fans of "hardcore RPGs". If these fans tell us that feature X sucks and can explain and justify their point of view, then they are right and ignoring their points would be very unwise.

* * * *

Stay tuned but just don't wear down your F5 button. Clicky for part three.

- Pavlos

Part One
Part Two
Part Three


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