Thursday, April 8, 2010

I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more

At work we often find ourselves discussing ideas to get ahead. I'm sure this happens everywhere, but when you work an entry-level "shaved ape" job (the long-term objective of which is to get out of the job and into something else as quickly as possible) it comes up pretty often. I imagine the elephant stall muckers at the circus titter constantly about the day in some bright future when they won't be shoveling poop. They don't dream of one day being promoted to Chief Stall Mucker. All apologies and respect to the fine Chief Stall Muckers at Namco.

The game industry is tricky because it's insanely competitive--the difficulty of performing your duties at a given job pales in comparison to the difficulty of getting that job. This explains why so many people in the industry are ruthless incompetents: once you actually arrive on-site to perform the functions for which you were hired, you've already done the hardest thing you'll ever have to do. It's all downhill from that first day and a lack of motivation can have really negative effects on performance. The other explanation is the more intuitive one: despite all the "competition" for design and production jobs, people usually advance in the industry through a combination of luck and cronyism.

Ultimately, the gold standard of game industry hiring is experience. It doesn't matter who you are or the talent you might bring to the table--without years of experience, you're sunk. How do you get this experience? By working in the industry! How do you get work in the industry? With experience! It's like being punched in the balls by Franz Kafka. The whole system is something like hiring head coaches in the NFL. Why do laughable re-treads like Chan Gailey pop up every season? Because they have experience, and that experience provides cover for the cowards doing the hiring. How could I have known he was gonna suck? He's been doing the same job for 10 years; he must kick ass at it!

Anyway, we're tired of this Catch-22. We hit upon an idea--a brilliantly Grinchy idea. Since nobody will hire us, why don't we hire ourselves? We'd start up our own development studio! Now you're thinking, "You game tester asstards don't know the first thing about making a game from scratch." True, but irrelevant. The point isn't to make a game, it's to accrue experience making a game. The actual product is a trivial detail, which I learned from my college friends who went into finance and consulting. All of you are parasites. Anyway, the point of this studio would be to develop "vaporware"--software that is perpetually in development but which will never be released. You know your industry is in a good place when there's a special term for robbing your investors. We can work on development of a fictitious piece of software for several years, all the while getting paid with sweet venture capital (the cocaine of ill-gotten gains) and amassing that crucial industry experience. We get "hired away" by other companies one by one until the studio is forced to fold and our amazing project is scrapped. It's a tragedy, but at least we found work somewhere.

Our Fake Game Concept
It has to be an RPG. Ideally an MMORPG; these titles are ideal for our purposes for the following reasons:
1. Everybody wants an MMO. It's the most valuable property you can have as a studio or a publisher. Electronic Arts is so desperate for a successful MMO title that they're willing to finance the construction of a full-scale Death Star to make it happen. There is no better way to get V.C. money without irritating questions like "what are you going to do with it?"
2. MMOs can consume years of work and millions of dollars without producing anything of substance--not even a demo that you can show your investors. It's okay, they probably won't ask. If they do, tell them you're developing a brand new packet-relaying technique that will shore up your network infrastructure. See? I bet your wallet is already out. $40 is cool for now. I need it to buy weed--I mean, relay packets.
3. Even real MMOs fail. There is an MMO concept under development for every single idea under the Sun. There's a Firefly MMO. There's a Battlestar Galactica MMO. None of them will ever see the light of day. Even most titles that make it to release fold within the first year.

So it should be pretty clear that MMOs are the way to go. You can totally shit the bed and nobody even cares, because there was always a tiny chance you might have succeeded. If you had, everyone would be making so much money that you wouldn't even be doing cocaine off strippers' asses. You'd be in the distant fictional Muslim future doing lines of The Spice off space strippers' asses. But what kind of MMO? You'll need a little more flesh on this concept if you're going to string this scam along for the years it'll take to actually get a decent job at a studio making real software.

So we'll make it a JRPG as well. For those of you who lost your virginities before the age of 20, that's a Japanese Role Playing Game. Which is just an RPG made in the Japanese aesthetic, meaning less character development and more gender-bending. Some brainstorming:
**Our main character is a girl. We'll give her a name that compensates for the deep sexual insecurities felt by our audience. It needs to be kinda tough, along the lines of "Bayonetta" and "Lightning." Let's go with Bloodette. Bloodette comes from a tragic past. Her father was a big-time war hero but he never loved her enough, so she fights to make him proud. Which she can't, because he died in a battle. But she can't remember how he died because of her amnesia. Also, maybe she has a tail. Just throwing it out there.
**We'll have a male sidekick for some testosterone balance. Not too much, because he can't be sexually threatening to our (very sheltered and insecure) audience. We compensate with his clothes--he wears short shorts and a midriff-baring vest. He has a happy-go-lucky attitude and a klutzy streak. He'd use a sword, but Bloodette is the main character so she's got a sword. This guy fights with a staff or something.
**The villain is a guy who rarely speaks (except to laugh or proclaim a foe's imminent demise). He has a really big sword and long white hair so you know he's mysterious and magical. When the game is about 75% done, he'll join the party as an ally and we'll introduce a new villain. The new guy is bigger, badder and so mysterious that his villainy has been completely under the radar. Meanwhile, the first villain will display some cheap pathos and quickly become the focal point of all erotic fan fiction written about our game.

As for game mechanics, we'll be taking a page from Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy 13 and Mac Dre: we goin' dumb. Gamers may be an older and more sophisticated group than ever before, but people as a whole have never been more dunderheaded. We account for this in our game design. Whereas complexity and intricate menu systems have long been staples of the genre, we're going in the opposite direction. All you control directly is Bloodette. Party members are selected before battle, but during battle all you can give is loose instructions like "Attack the enemy!" (which causes party members to suicidally assault enemy positions) or "Defensive positions!" (party members take cover and don't come out) This allows the player to really concentrate on the main character without burdensome distractions like health bars, turn orders and on-screen numbers. Bloodette will have a basic selection of combos and spells at the start, but more can be unlocked as the player gains more XP. Additionally, XP can be purchased over Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network as micro-transactions. Our investors will be fired up about these transactions, as they represent even more upside to the remote possibility of our success. Customer reaction would likely be negative, but that doesn't matter because (after all!) we're not releasing this game.

The sad part is, there's probably a dozen studios filled with people who already thought of this idea. That would explain a lot.


  1. "The actual product is a trivial detail, which I learned from my college friends who went into finance and consulting. All of you are parasites."


  2. Blue Sun Studios opening for business. I'll start with the design doc and story spec for the JRPG.

    How about... Bloodette's army is caught in the midst of two warring nations, whose motives are loosely defined as imperialistic. Along with her male (though platonic) companion, Bloodette comes across the Queen of her nation (for some reason). The young Queen has altruistic goals, but no means of completing them as she serves mostly as a figurehead (with her Senior Adviser, who naturally sports a thin, curly mustache, taking control of the nation's day-to-day operations). Wanting to leave the castle, she entrusts her life to this renegade soldier who she has just met, and she leaves to join their crusade against... some mysterious magical force not mentioned in the first 10 hours of gameplay. The Queen also has White Magic powers, despite no mention of this ever being made in the cutscenes.

    I think it's a potential winner. Too bad the world will never see it.