Monday, March 17, 2008

Safely does it

Am off to London later this morning for the usual bunch of meetings and at the same time to enjoy a little bit of the craic tonight, with it being St.Patricks day. I always tend to over-do the Irish party and given an over-celebration a few years back, it always tends to make more sense if I enjoy myself somewhere other than near home - it's a creeping paranoia I have about it. Me staggering all over the garden with a massive green Guinness hat on with just the one eye open, clutching two hats for the kids was a sight perhaps too much for the missis to take.

These days if I'm in London I tend to make the most of it in terms of meetings and really get around the place, catching up with as many people as I can; this inevitably means shuttling around the Tube and in various cabs - which makes the day whizz by. I'll be up in the north-east of the city (around Camden, Old Street) for lunch/afternoon for a while, then into the centre and finally out West for the evening. I'm back on the train first thing in the morning, getting back to Yorkshire for the afternoon.

I'm crossing my fingers that the service will be fine after last-weeks weather disruptions and that given it's Easter, the train (and London) won't be way too busy.

At home it's been a weekend of getting the house back to normal after the kitchen disruptions and we're almost there - especially as the Kitchen flooring goes down today/tomorrow. Our friends and ex-neighbours are coming on Thursday for a few days, so there's a few things planned for that including a bit of a party on Saturday night although I safely assume that Thursday & Friday will be predictably lively.

Work wise, it's pretty busy as usual and Wii Worms (aka "Worms - A Space Oddity") gets launched on the 28th of this month and we're busy planning on a few things for later in the year which is quite exciting. Work continues on our Leisuresuit Larry title for Vivendi as well as a couple of titles we haven't discussed as yet.

There's been a bit of flack in our direction regarding the lack of online facilities in Wii Worms which has been very difficult for us to take (some of the comments have been particularly scathing) but what people don't really understand is that even though we're developers of the title, we don't make all the calls in terms of functionality and work with our publisher to arrive at a feature-set that they feel best suits a particular market-place at a particular time. This time that meant no focus on online even though it was initially one of Team17's goals for the project, which in hindsight we wish we hadn't promised as it was later re-discussed as part of our publishing conversations given that it wasn't felt important enough to deliver (any online component adding considerably to development and ultimately testing).

However, the lack of online titles in Wii titles in general is no real surprise to me since I personally believe that Nintendo have sanitised the experience a bit too much in terms of restricting communication to the extent that there is hardly any - I can understand why they would wish to do that given their younger/family demographic, safety-first approach but without the social elements, online play might as well be against and AI bot.

I've only ever played one Wii game online (Super Smash Soccer) and didn't get an impression that I was playing someone real... it didn't inspire me to go back - and I think this impression is over-riding within the games industry, in direct opposition to the buzz around Microsoft Live and to a slightly lesser extent, the PS3's online facilities which are playing catch-up to the PC and Microsoft's 360.

As ever, there's been somewhat of an over-reaction by the hard-core gamers (and as such, many reviewers) shouting that without online the game loses a bunch of it's core values. I'd actually argue that point since the game really is best enjoyed socially (and socially online - with communication such is the XBLA edition, with voice chat etc). The demographic of the Wii audience is so wide, so reasonably unpredictable (and quite new to developer & publisher alike) that it will take a little while to gather play patterns and requirements and the lack of focus online across all the titles out there is surely good indication that publishers don't feel that Wii users really itch to play online.

I think there's some merit in that, but I hope that the online situation regarding social interaction is possibly loosened in the future by Nintendo and we can perhaps go on to deliver a title in the future for the system which makes full online use; given the popularity of the Wii, it does give the industry a good opportunity to take new people online - and because these aren't hard-core players, we have to ensure that the first instance of their online experience is positive and engaging - and you couldn't say that for many of the current online experiences against hard-core, ego-laiden and largely abusive people (who also disconnect at the first opportunity if they aren't winning - humans eh...).

Anyway, time to get some stuff done and make sure I'm ready for that train.

No comments: