Who Drives Design Decisions?
I sat through a few presentations last week from potential suppliers and a few of them shared the “new” tech that “beacons” storefronts. This tech will ping every cell phone that passes by your storefront door and give you a unique traffic count each day. It does ping unique versus non unique but no personal information is stored. This is only if you have Wi-Fi turned on your phone. It’s non evasive and doesn’t creep me out that much. Another one (which is becoming increasingly common) is when you hit that space in front of the storefront it sends you a text, or SMS, or push notification with an offer to “come buy” or otherwise engage the customer. That actually DOES creep me out. I don’t want that to happen to me. The salesman assures me that every 16 year old kid does, however, because “it makes sense to them”, and that they can also filter that option out to only happen to certain age demographics (which further creeps me out).
I love technology in general and am often an early adopter but am still from a mindset that loyalty is build on interaction and exceeding expectations, not discounting. (which is why I pick on Steam a lot here). If it is true this is how people want to be engaged by businesses I suppose I will have to adjust – I just don’t have a comfort level with it yet. It makes me think of Minority Report and how they use eyes to track where you are, what you bought last time, and where you are going. I don’t think the average person wants that yet.
I’m only 40 and feeling really old when told this kind of technology is what people want. Since I am 40 it feels like my “prime” time as a gamer is long gone when companies are considering development strategies. Games are being designed around what the new market wants, what the new consumer wants. I still think I would be a prime candidate to market to – I have high disposable income with less disposable time – so I am willing to pay for a great experience (full price – doesn’t have to be a Steam sale!) as long as the game engages me and respects my limited time.
All of this intro is to discuss an upcoming title that I have a lot of excitement for – The Division, by Tom Clancy. Check out the various vids. I love the setting, the over the shoulder FPS style works in it, I like Tom Clancy games in general. It has a lot going for it and could be an engaging story.
In the video below it shows someone controlling a drone – and reading some interviews and deeper dives into the game that person is interfacing the multiplayer aspect of the game via his/her tablet. The designer goes on to share that this game is built around Multiplayer and the different ways to interface with the game and play with friends. Check out the video – it looks interesting. He is buffing, marking, doing all sorts of supportive (yet mundane) tasks.
What I am going to question here, is who actually asked for this? Have gamers been emailing Tom saying “hey, I love your AAA titles but what I *really* want is to assist friends playing the full game while on my tablet”. I just don’t see where the need is here to dedicate so much of the theme of the game, and the design time, to engage gamers this different way – for the sake of being different. If I am sitting at home in front of my PS4 I am not pulling out a tablet to play along – I’ll grab the controller instead. This leads back to my WildStar observation of who actually asked for the WoW 2004 grind to be brought back? And are developers innovating simply to be different or to actually improve our quality of gaming life?
I wonder if the goal of providing something different or innovative is getting in the way of foundational and sound game design. This decision feels like it was made by designers in a room trying to find something cool to introduce so they have a talking point instead of any evidence of a need for this in the marketplace. If any developer were to ask me what I want, I’d tell them an immersive and engaging gaming experience. I don’t need gimmicks. Maybe I don’t matter as a gamer anymore but it feels like designers are asking the wrong questions or to the wrong people (or both). Maybe I am just the wrong gaming demographic now.
It may be a really cool feature and it will be interesting to see it play out – I will be following this one pretty closely. I just hope they didn’t have to cut out the parts that interest me personally to fit in ideas that may not interest anyone.