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Splinter Cell director: “lower case aaa” is the future of the industry

Monday, 5 November 2012 01:10 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Splinter Cell: Blacklist director Patrick Redding believes traditional “AAA” development isn’t sustainable, and will be replaced by lower budget “aaa” releases.

Speaking at the Gamercamp festival in Toronto, as reported by GamesIndustry, Redding said games like Minecraft – low budget but flexible – are the future.

“The market as a whole is going to undergo a critical shift in priorities, a shift away from the absolute primacy of graphics and production values and content creation toward systemic depth,” he said.

“This trend is going to trigger a reality check for developers like me who work on established franchises with a large succession of sequels, and it’s also going to be a call-to-arms for smaller game creators.”

Factors contributing to this shift include increasing development costs, digital distribution and player demand. Redding said the resulting “aaa” games will prioritise systemic design and open-ended gameplay. The developer warned that “aaa” creators will have to give up authorial control and accept that additional resources won’t always solve design issues.

Fittingly, Redding concluded by saying that Splinter Cell: Blacklist is definitely a AAA title but uses some systemic design, such as in its AI and lighting-based detection mechanics. He considers the forthcoming stealth action effort an example of how AAA production values can serve more interesting design.

Blacklist is due on PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U and Xbox 360 in northern spring 2013.

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7 Comments

  1. xxJPRACERxx

    The end of AAA titles will be the end of gaming for me. But I’m sure AAA titles will always exist.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. TD_Monstrous69

    So, he preaches from a high horse on how AAA development is unsustainable, and needs to change (though he is correct), yet he’s working at an 800+ staffed studio, making a AAA game (though I get, not all of those people are working on Blacklist). I don’t think I could find more of a contrdiction than the argument that Patrick Redding’s making.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Erthazus

    Better to have lower case AAA then stupid linear shooter with 50 million marketing campaign or Splinter Cell:Blacklist which is trash anyway.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Cobra951

    Someone will always strive for the top, If the current big-money people in game development get bored with it, others will take their place in due course. There may be lean years in the interim, to be sure.

    Minecraft is a terrific example of how to do it too. Mojang could build a AAA empire now, with that little gem as its cornerstone. And if it’s not them, it will be someone else who grew their business with the right idea at the right time.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. TheBlackHole

    People said the same about blockbuster cinema.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. TheWulf

    It would be nice if someone would actually come through on ideas like this, wouldn’t it?

    I see the triple-A scenario as being a bit of a cancer of our past-time, it’s not creative, and it tends to appeal to the lowest common denominator. None of the highest, which… as you may or may not be able to guess is fun. None of that shit. It has to be about PR, and marketing, and most importantly of all? Spectacle.

    If you look at the core of any true triple-A release, it’s always spectacle. No Russian comes to mind. Oh, and hey, Assassin’s Creed III isn’t about “USA! USA!” either. Tomb Raider III? Let’s turn that shit into torture porn. Triple-A gaming has somehow become the embodiment of British rags like the Daily Mail. What they were saying about games and gamers is somehow what triple-A is supposed to become.

    But if you focus purely on triple-A, you’re ignoring indies and small developers who create simply wonderful things. You’re also ignoring first party developers who might be permitted to work on something that won’t be entirely successful. So you’re ignoring To the Moon, Pid, Little Big Planet, Bastion, Trine 2, Magicka, and Vessel.

    Those games have true character and personality, they have a soul rather than being built upon foundations of PR and spectacle. They’re not simply fun to play, they each amount to a genuinely memorable gaming experience. Because they’re focused into a narrower beam, you have each respective creative lead trying to do something that matters to them, rather than trying to cast out the biggest net.

    To the Moon is a fine example. It was funny and poignant in equal memory, and no other game has remained as firmly lodged in my mind as that one. It was a game that toyed with your emotions like a cat might with a dead spider. It taunted you, it teased you, it gave you potential, possibility, and actually honest to fucking goodness drama. Drama that would make Downton Abbey jealous. And it rounded that masterpiece off with a Disney ending – because those who stuck with it through the emotional rollercoaster it provided deserved to feel happy at the end.

    This is just something that one developer wanted to do. That’s Kan Gao. I could hug him for that. And games like that are almost the anti-thesis of what it means to be triple-A.

    Then you have silly games, games which are just there to make you laugh, smile, and feel good about everything. Zeboyd are a fantastic example of this. Cthulhu Saves the World? Penny Arcade 3? They’re just amusing. It’s something that you couldn’t do with the mainstream because it’s victimless humour, it relies on the game being… how to put this? An identity. It’s like a stand-up comedian. You have some who rely on schlock, circumstance, schadenfreude, and spectacle…

    And then you have those that don’t.

    Indies and small developers have long realised what needs to happen: You need smaller projects, with less money. You need more of them. You don’t necessarily need casual products, but you can have something that can last four hours with a budget that’s only 10% of that of Assassin’s Creed III and it can make you ten times as much as AC III did. How? Niches, that’s how. There are under-served niches out there right now.

    And these niches don’t buy into the spectacle, instead, they pick up whichever games appeal to them the most. You have a large subsection of gamers today, young and old, who are removing themselves from the mainstream in order to play games which genuinely appeal to them, rather than playing prolonged advertisements for the game they’re actually playing that they’re told they should feel good about.

    This subsection, I think, is forever growing and it’s becoming nontrivial.

    A while back indies harked the rebirth of the home computer era of gaming, where you had people who made games not in offices, but in bedrooms, garages, or in any space they could find. This was the kind of person who decided that, hey, they wanted to make a game and all they needed was the Internet to do it. Because with being able to work with people from all four corners of the globe, the Internet is all you truly need.

    And I think that’s scary for triple-A development, which is becoming ever more the dinosaur. And for them, it’s a matter of either evolving or facing extinction. The film industry has already faced the same thing, and has at least begun to turn things around. The problem with the games industry though is that they’ve had people like Valve innovating for them, which has given them a cushioned period of prosperity.

    A bumper zone, if you will.

    But that’s eroding, now. They’re looking at their profits, and they’re realising that these games just aren’t working. Look at DarkSiders II. A ridiculous amount of money was poured into advertising that but it didn’t sell well enough because it needed a ridiculous amount of money to even break even. A lot of that is due to marketing and PR, and that DS II was, at its core, a niche title. Worse, they felt they had to pad it out to make it seem longer just to fit in with mainstream notions of value.

    But what if they’d had less people working on that? A smaller game, not quite as insane with graphical fidelity, and none of the advertising and PR? It would have been a humongous success. Why? I think the niche that buys that sort of game enjoys it. Torchlight II didn’t require a massive advertising campaign to be a ridiculous success, and considering what advertising and being mainstream cost Blizzard, I’d be willing to bet that genuine profits (not just revenue) is looking rosier at Runic Games than at Blizz right now.

    So what these triple-A developers need to do is break their studios down into smaller pieces. They need to also fire most of their marketing and PR people. Then they need to look at what niches haven’t seen a game in a while and develop one for such a niche at a reduced cost. That’s the future. That’s been the future for a while, but you know how dinosaurs are, they languish and they’ll kick at the tar as best they can.

    But things need to change.

    I’ve already fallen out of love with the mainstream. I did a long time ago. Riddle me this: Why should I bother playing Crysis 2, which is all about spectacle, explosions, and things that don’t appeal to me, when I could play To the Moon?

    I picked those games just for being relevant in their release year. But it’s a fair point. Moreover, I think the climate is just changing in general to be more favourable towards indies and small devs due to how they’re making niche games. Because niche games have an identity, a personality, that thing that makes them uniquely them. Whereas the mainstream is ever woefully generic. A lot of the game faces whose articles I Read didn’t cite mainstream games as their games of 2011. In fact… the name I heard most?

    Bastion.

    bastion was the game of the year for 2011.

    And if you’ve played that game, it’s easy to understand why.

    Bastion is a fine example of an indie developer knowing what they wanted to make and then putting that together. There was genuine artisanry involved for them to take something from their collective imagination and to form it, like clay, into something you won’t quite have played the likes of before.

    Smaller works. Less centralised. Not so big, not so PR-laden, not so full of spectacle. Just groups of people working on what they love to work on. And working on it because they think it’ll be amazing, not because they got the memo from their PR department as to what’s selling right now. It’s almost art and fun versus a form of sterility.

    So let’s call the mainstream the Borg, and the indie/small devs I’ve spoken of as the plucky Federation who’re always undermining them and proving how much better they are. I find that that’s not only an amusing metaphor, but an incredibly fitting one. You have studios like EA, Activision, and Ubisoft trying to assimilate everyone in sight, but instead of adding to their distinctiveness, they just make all of their inductees as generic and as empty as they are.

    So I’ll take my flawed but spirited little Federation vessel over a giant, faceless Borg cube any day of the week.

    And I can only hope that the mainstream really is beginning to realise that being the Borg isn’t really that helpful to anyone. Least of all them, because the profits aren’t there. Sleeping Dogs? DarkSiders II? And even Assassin’s Creed III is likely not going to meet profit quotas. Same for the upcoming Tomb Raider, and so many others.

    We live in interesting times, and only those with money to waste (like EA and Activision) can really keep going the way they are. The rest? THQ, Take-Two, Ubisoft, and more are finding that they can’t.

    I hope this just doesn’t turn into an era of mainstream mobile games, instead. Look at the indies/small developers, they know what they’re doing.

    @5

    Except that that already happened. A long, long time ago.

    Each big ‘Blockbuster’ you see these days is having less and less of a budget. And you’re seeing more niche films which are meant to appeal to smaller audiences, rather than the giant, catch-all films of yore. If you look at the box office forecasts, you’ll find that the bigger a film’s budget, the more inconsequential the profits.

    This is why films have been doing more with less, lately. And when I say lately, I mean for the past good few years. And it’s going more and more that way all the time.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. DSB

    @5 Blockbuster cinema did kill an awful lot of studios along the way, and the ones who made it only survived by rethinking the way they made movies.

    I’m also not sure anyone will be in a rush to replace the games publishers as they go down, in the same way.

    #7 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]

  • New Wander trailer shows off Azertash form

    Wander is a collaborative, non-combat MMO in which you can take on a number of unique forms. Wander players begin as an ambulant tree called an Oren and can progress through several different bodies as they explore the environment, learning its secrets. One of these, which we’d not seen before this trailer, is the amphibious […]

  • SOMA approaching beta phase on PC and PS4

    SOMA, the new horror game from the Amnesia: The Dark Descent crew, is getting close to playable. Frictional Games has apologised for its recent silence over the project, but said it’s focused on reaching beta. Sorry all for the silence! We're closing in on Beta and everyone's working hard to get there. Once that's done, […]

  • Square Enix does not condone Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest HD Remaster

    Square Enix has said it’s not involved with a fan remake of Final Fantasy spin-off Mystic Quest. 1992 SNES game Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is being remade by Dark Design as Mystic Quest HD Remaster. The developer is even taking pre-orders for the project. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in no position to be […]

  • New Hunger teaser released by LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers

    LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers Tarsier Studios have released a teaser trailer for Hunger, which was announced in May 2014 at the Nordic Game Conference. The game has been rumored to be the firm’s unannounced Sony project since 2010. Platforms are still to be announced, but the studio became a first-party SCE developer a few years back, […]

  • Here’s two Mario Party 10 overview videos, one featuring amiibo

    Overview videos for Mario Party 10 and the amiibo which work with the title have been released by Nintendo Japan. Obviously each one is in Japanese, but you get the gist all the same. Mario Party 10 releases on Wii U March 20 in North America and Europe. Thanks, AGB.

  • Clan Raids announced for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App

    Activision has announced a new Clan Raids mode will be made available through the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App. According to the CoD community blog, raids are time-based challenges where success earns you a spot on the Clan Raids leaderboards and new Clan Raid-exclusive in-game gear like the Equilibrium set. Clan members will […]

  • Play Battlefield Hardline starting March 12 through EA Access

    Xbox One users with an EA Access subscription will be able to play 10 hours worth of Battlefield Hardline starting March 12. EA Access members will are being granted access to the game five days before the street date, with full multiplayer and all saves transferring over into the main game. It was announced yesterday […]

  • This video summarizes the contents of Destiny patch 1.1.1

    With Destiny patch 1.1.1 now available, here’s a video summary of what to expect. In the video above, Arekkz Gaming gives you a rundown of the important bits in the update. Subscribe to Arekkz Gaming for more Destiny tips and trick through the link.

  • Destiny 1.1.1 patch notes out, update is live

    Destiny’s 1.1.1 patch arrives today, so if you have been kicked from activities, it means you will need to download the patch now that it’s live. We will be pushing the 1.1.1 patch for Destiny shortly. Players will be kicked from activities and required to download the patch. — Bungie Help (@BungieHelp) February 25, 2015 […]