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Rare Q&A With Rockstar Games Head Sam Houser

Soulskill posted about 6 years ago | from the penny-for-your-thoughts dept.

Games 89

Paul Williams writes "Develop Magazine has posted a fascinating multi-part interview with Sam Houser, president and founder of Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar Games. Houser is rarely quoted outside of press releases, and almost never does interviews. So, reading his frank views on things like Rockstar's critics, the creative secrets that make games like GTA IV a success, and how the developer rejects things like focus testing — a common practice at the likes of EA but an 'anathema to creativity' according to Houser — is very interesting. Houser has even written a mini biography of his career with some fun references to the Hot Coffee scandal: 'July 2005: Residue code found in San Andreas. Hackers modify it and it turns into scandal known as "Hot Coffee." Get dragged into legal nightmare, ending in trip to Washington in February 2006 to sit in front of federal trade commission staff — for nine hours.'"

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first dong (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623557)

the penis is a myth

Re:first dong (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24624155)

Shit. Fuck. Cock! Grandma! Cock!

Re:first dong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24624507)

Jism jism ee eye ee eye oh!

Drop the script (5, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24623627)

Of all things, storytelling is one of the areas that in some ways has the furthest to go.

Indeed. Please drop the whole "scripted storyline" concept and make a super fancy algorithm so that the story derives from whatever the player does and whatever happens as a consequence. It would be a tremendous paradigm shift, instead of have a linear story, or a branching storyline in which choices and such make the story branch out, every single of your action would influence more or less the future, and instead of cutting the story into missions in which you just do scripted missions until you succeed at each and every of them, let the player evolve with no safety net.

Therefore not only would you have to make complex decisions, but the way you execute these decisions would be crucial, and you wouldn't know if it was a good idea before you see it works and as long as you're there to see that there were no negative consequences.

Sure, that's a hell of a lot of R&D that would be involved, but that would kick a whole new level of arse!

Yeah. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623743)

And when I dream, I want a pony.

Re:Yeah. (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | about 6 years ago | (#24627599)

Tell you what - you hang on to the pony, while the OP and I play Far Cry 2 [gamasutra.com] and Spore [eurogamer.net] .

Moving beyond the linear storyline in games might be an ambitious goal, but some game developers are giving it a go. The links above, especially the first, show just how they're trying to achieve it. They might not pull it off quite yet, but at least they're giving it a try.

Re:Yeah. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 6 years ago | (#24639911)

Nonlinear storylines are an extremely old hat.
The problem you get is always, that the more freedom you give the user, the less it remains to be a story.

You see, a story has several rules, like a normal state, then a depression, then the buildup, and the climax. Between those steps, the change is amplitude-modulated with smaller factors in a fractal-like way. At least in theory. :)
Most people do not realize, that if you remove this quite fixed rules, the story stops being interesting.

Then, there is the concept of the "game" in itself. Tetris is such a pure game. Many Minigames/Flashgames are too. The only linearity there is the difficulty buildup, to generate motivation.
It's fun, sure, but there's no story. And when you do something like that with a game of the class of Halflife, it feels strange.

Now what the GP wants, is that those stories are created after those basic "good story" and "good game" rules, in a huge algorithm.
I think this would be possible, but it would be very very very hard, next to a complete brain-fuck.
I haven't played Far Cry 2 yet, but if it's like a "Far Cry extreme", than you still got a tiny bit of storyline, but Far Cry was far from great in terms of game theory and the storyline is - as usual in games - a joke. Spore on the other hand seems to have done it's job in game theory very well, but has no story at all (right?). So there's no need for a storyline-algorithm.

Oh, and I'd love to create that algorithm. Although you would not get very far without neural nets.

Re:Yeah. (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | about 6 years ago | (#24642611)

I take it you didn't read the links I posted (hey, this is Slashdot after all!) Far Cry 2 is a work in progress which has very little in common with the original Far Cry (which was, you're right, a pretty standard shooter with a minimal and very linear storyline).

What they're trying to do with the new game is address all of the issues you bring up about creating a good storyline. Effectively, they're attempting to create the huge "good story" algorithm, as you put it. That doesn't mean they'll necessarily succeed, but at least they're trying, which is more than can be said of most of the gaming industry. They even recognise that they might fail, saying in the article: -

And honestly, if we mess this up, it will be one of the most useful epic failures of all time, because the shrapnel will be useful. There will be a lot of good forensics to have on this. Other developers, with whom we hopefully have a pretty decent relationship, just informally, they know what we're trying to do. We talk to them a lot about it. They appreciate that we're doing something that's risky, and that's ambitious, and also, hopefully, to the benefit of games as a whole.

The article, which describes in a fair amount of depth how they're trying to achieve all this, is a really interesting read, if you're into this sort of thing.

Re:Drop the script (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623811)

Play some fallout 1&2 (Hopefully 3 will be as good). You'll get about as close to what you want as a modern computer game can get.

Re:Drop the script (5, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | about 6 years ago | (#24623835)

I agree that would certainly make for a better game. But do you have the slightest idea what you're asking? The software would have to creatively synthesis an outcome based on everything the player did. That's way beyond any "super fancy algorithm" available right now. You're basically talking about "strong" AI: software with the same level of creativity as a human.

That's an ironic suggestion, since the AI in GTA is remarkably poor. (At least in the version I played, GTA III for the PC; I suppose it might have improved in later games.) One example is the inability of NPCs to go from point A to point B if it involves any serious pathfinding. I was once in a parking lot, surrounded by cops, and none of them could get to me, because there was a low wall around the lot, and their travelling skills did not extend to "find the entrance" or "get out of your squad car and step over the wall."

Re:Drop the script (1)

LowlyWorm (966676) | about 6 years ago | (#24624219)

I like to climb on top of the cop cars and shoot down helicopters and other police vehicles for as long as I can. The car I am on always drives around looking for me. BTW I did read 1984.

Re:Drop the script (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 6 years ago | (#24624449)

BTW I did read 1984.

So feel free to talk about it.

Re:Drop the script (1)

LowlyWorm (966676) | about 6 years ago | (#24624671)

OK. The book is far better than the movie. The movie was impossible to follow without having first read the book. I think George Orwell chose the name of the main character, Winston Smith to reflect both the extraordinary (Winston Churchill) and the ordinary every-man (Smith). Both aspects are reflected in the character in that he is inwardly opposed authoritarian regime of Big Brother and he reflects many of the same vices of the ordinary populace such as smoking and drinking. Those "faults" are not considered as such by the book, however, in that they are considered a liberties although the book does not explicitly state this. The thought police did frown on such vices but allowed them.

Perhaps most striking, is the parallels of the fictional devices and methods used to enforce the power of Big Brother at the time (telescreens, memory holes, etc.) and the methods used By George Bush. --I forget with whom we are currently at war.

Back to the main thread, while I feel that better AI would benefit GTA, there are those who would deprive us of liberties of game play where they feel it may promote social unrest. We must be ever vigilant to protect those liberties. Past legislation has been brought to bear against comic books, for instance. The arguments were the same -- Our youth would become psychologically damaged, violent and uncontrollable. But few links have been demonstrated aside from some anecdotal incidence.

How was that? It was the best I could do off the top of my head.

Re:Drop the script (1)

weetabeex (1065032) | about 6 years ago | (#24625573)

Damn. You already spoiled it. I guess the flyers weren't enought... you had to post them on slashdot.

And the book didn't even came out yet!

Re:Drop the script (2, Interesting)

papabob (1211684) | about 6 years ago | (#24624855)

This can be implemented in many ways, none of them requiring 'strong AI'. For example you make the game with a normal storyline (ascending to mafia boss and the like), and you only have to give the NPCs scripts more execution paths depending what missions you have completed before and whom did you talked to. You robbed the bank killing more than X civilians? Ok, you're a hard guy and the next NPC will give you the mission of collect the 'protection fees' from the bartenders. If instead you managed to win the drug deal without firing a single shot, well, you're perfect for this 'transport the wallet' mission. This way you've reduced a lot the "you can't continue the game untill you complete that mission" points.

Sure, it increases the work of the writers and the QA guys, but once you have the game engine polished adding new stories would be pretty easy.

Re:Drop the script (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625385)

You've got a point but I think you're suggesting an overly simplifying solution. What you suggest would be very rigid, everything would still be scripted, just scripted in a way that would allow for more freedom. What I suggest goes further than that, and brings the whole storyline down to characters with a personality and an initial situation, and the algorithm I was initially talking about.

Basically you'd simulate each character's psychology. I.e., give them a few character traits, and based on their situation, and what they want to achieve based on their personality (i.e. an ambitious character will take risks to get richer and richer, a cowardly character will easily be scared away, a cruel character will love you for killing targets in a vicious way, etc..), and let the simulation do the rest of the job. I think at this point it might give you a game much more different in feel than the GTA series, but it would be unscripted goodness, no one will have decided before hand whether you should become the new Ted Turner or if you should end up broke. However the time spent writing the scenario would be spent testing and fine tuning the simulation and the main characters' personality and situation.

Re:Drop the script (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 6 years ago | (#24628431)

That's still scripting. You're just using the script to drive a character-driven story instead of a plot-driven story.

I've seen several attempts to emulate person-to-person interactions in games, and I've always thought the results were pretty lame. You can always see the gimmicks behind the facade: the decision tree, the storing keywords to throw back at you later. I suppose it could be done right if the design team had a lot of creativity, imagination, and psychological insight — not to mention some advanced skills in creating pattern-matching software. Not a lot of motivation to make it happen in id-driven [flickr.com] games like GTA.

Re:Drop the script (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24628553)

How's that still scripting? And are we talking about strategical AI decisions or are we talking about dialogue?

Re:Drop the script (1)

Jorophose (1062218) | about 6 years ago | (#24626685)

Tales of Symphonia had something like that. Depending on who's your soulmate entire scenes would change to match that. And then some scenes the least liked characters (as in those who like you the least, not the other way around) would stick behind. At one point your soulmate even gets kidnapped, leading you to the climax of the game as you watch everyone else fight their fears.

That's nothing though. That's very light AI. At one point (spoilers!) you get the choice to refuse all three of your "best friends" (three who like you the most) and go for a walk with your father. There's a scene much later on, where one of your friends betrays you, challenges you to a duel, and you kill him, and your father returns to your party after saving you later on. As opposed to ninjas from a local village who come and defend you, and your friend was just tricking the enemies to get something for you.

That is a pretty radical change, because tons of sidequests no longer apply now that you've lost the friend forever. And his sister takes on the title of "Chosen of Mana".

Re:Drop the script (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 6 years ago | (#24628473)

Sure, it increases the work of the writers and the QA guys

Yeah, exponentially! Every decision with two story-affecting choices doubles the number of endings. For a story with only 8 decisions, you'll have 256 story paths to write and test. It gets more complex when a decision changes the meaning of other decisions (earlier and later) or adds or removes decision points.

Re:Drop the script (1)

samoanbiscuit (1273176) | about 6 years ago | (#24642779)

Wow, this sounds like a game i played ages ago called Deus Ex... I loved that game... Then Microsoft had to buy it out and put out Deus Ex 2: Invisible War for the xbox that was just a huge pile of shit... Well, in comparison to it's succesor...

Re:Drop the script (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625347)

I think you're stretching my suggestion quite a ridiculous bit. I don't think it would take anything even remotely like strong AI. I think it could work by giving a logic to each character, a logic which they would follow based on everything. Surely that would take some CPU power to simulate everybody's logic, but I think the algorithmic challenge resides more in the optimisation of that than in the feasibility.

A 7 year old game making use of very basic AI algorithms doesn't prove any point really.

Re:Drop the script (3, Interesting)

MrMista_B (891430) | about 6 years ago | (#24623837)

God, I hope not. Who wants to play real life? What you're suggesting is the opposite of improving 'story' - it's the removal of story alltogether, leaving only player decisions and random 'whatever' prodecural generation.

Basically, what you're wanting is something like GTA, but without any story or direction whatsoever, just things like the cops coming after you if you get too crazy and other such things.

And, sure, that's fun, I don't really play GTA for the story anyway. But don't confuse 'sandbox game' with 'well thought out and developed storyline, characterization, and plot'. The two can live together, but removing one from the other doesn't neccessarily improve either.

Re:Drop the script (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625403)

Well correct, and my idea would make the whole thing cease from being GTA anyways. But I don't think it would remove the story, or make it be all about cops coming after you, it would make the story be generated. Maybe in quality it wouldn't be as good as the professionally written GTA storyline, but in a way that would be *your* storyline, based on everything you did throughout the game. And it's much more about interaction between you and influential characters than 'improved cop AI'.

Who wants to play real life? The same people who don't want to actually live the life (and death) of Tony Montana, Don Corleone or Iceberg Slim? Like, you know, people playing flight simulators cause you don't need lessons and you can crash an airliner into the ground as many times as you like. If a game like GTA was also a sort of criminal social simulator, it would be potentially quite tremendous.

Re:Drop the script (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623847)

This has already been done (at least to the limits of current technology) in the RPG world. The Elder Scrolls (Morrowind, Oblivion) comes immediately to mind.

Although there are a few pre set plot-lines that you can choose to pursue, you're free to do more or less whatever you want. The story evolves fairly naturally.

Anything more, and you're asking for a full-fledged AI, which may not even be possible depending on who you ask....

Re:Drop the script (5, Insightful)

Xtravar (725372) | about 6 years ago | (#24623859)

Please acquire "The Sims 2" and leave the rest of us alone who don't want to be annoyed as fuck when we find out we have to replay 9/10th of the game for not saving Billy from the Mafia in Act 1.

The only reason I play games anymore is for the storyline. Eventually, every game starts looking like the Real World and all quests look like Work. The only difference is that games HAVE A GOAL YOU CAN ATTAIN and work just drags on forever, sucking the life out of you until you die.

Re:Drop the script (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24624147)

You, sir, are an idiot.

Re:Drop the script (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 6 years ago | (#24624521)

I found movies and anime much more up to the task of getting my story fix.
I, like you, played mainly for the story. Got bored with trying to attain the stupid goals. Just wanted more story.

Besides, the stories in anime and movies (those rated well by your favorite critics) put game stories to shame when considering the gameplay involved.

Re:Drop the script (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24630641)

Anime are movies, they're animated movies. Stop saying anime and movies!

Re:Drop the script (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625413)

You mean you actually played GTA for the story rather than anything else? Let me guess, you buy Playboy to read its articles?

By the way, I don't get the point of your first sentence at all. What I'm talking about is an (essentially) scriptless storyline, in such a game, if you failed at saving Billy, you'd either assume the consequences, or you'd go back to your last save state. I don't see how that would be inferior to being stuck in GTA cause you just can't shoot that speedboat in time and being forced to do the mission over and over again until you decide to either stick to being chased by poor police AIs or succeed.

Re:Drop the script (1)

Walter Carver (973233) | about 6 years ago | (#24687775)

Work is creation and is one of the fundamental rights of humans. If you feel that it is sucking the life out of you then you need to think about getting another work, and while at it, reconsider a few things about life. Yes, I know it will not be easy, but it is not supposed to be easy. And from the way you phrased, it is going to be easier than what you are going through now.

Unless of course you are winning, so then all bets are off.

Re:Drop the script (1)

wisty (1335733) | about 6 years ago | (#24623879)

That would be nice, but very difficult to do. Please just give us decent scripted stories. Most of the current ones suck. Remember the days of Monkey Island, Zelda, Mist, Dawn of War, Starcraft and Minesweeper, and Quake?

Re:Drop the script (1)

Talgrath (1061686) | about 6 years ago | (#24623985)

You're obviously not a coder of any sort; that sort of "algorithm" is approaching something much closer to a human mind, or perhaps even a God-like one (remember, even humans get stumped). The best you can do (at least right now) is to script in a random quest generator based on templates or simply create a hell of a lot of content (GTA 4 does a bit of both). Neither one tends to result in the same sort of quality storyline as a "scripted" story though.

Re:Drop the script (0, Flamebait)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625439)

You're an idiot. Check my first link in my signature, of course I'm a coder. And then you're an idiot for assuming it has to be anything like strong AI. You can just have a basic macroscopic (by that I mean that focuses on large easily observable traits) psychological simulation for each character and let it run based on their situation, what they want to do based on their personality, and the events that subsequently happen. Just because you can't think of a proper algorithm to do that doesn't mean it's impossible, however that fact combined with the fact that you think it's impossible clearly mean that you're not as good at thinking up algorithms as you'd like to think.

Re:Drop the script (4, Informative)

Fweeky (41046) | about 6 years ago | (#24624071)

Please drop the whole "scripted storyline" concept and make a super fancy algorithm so that the story derives from whatever the player does and whatever happens as a consequence

Here you go [wikipedia.org] . Some assembly required [fromearth.net] . Dwarf Fortress is in many respects built to allow stories to emerge from gameplay [gamasutra.com] ; indeed, it's a significant [bay12games.com] part of what people find attractive about it.

It's kind of a mixture of Dungeon Keeper 2, Sim City, Nethack, The Sims, The Incredible Machine, and experimental brain surgery.

Re:Drop the script (0, Troll)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625455)

Thank you! At last someone who understood the idea instead of drivelling blithering nonsense about strong AI.

Mod parent underrated (1)

The Iso (1088207) | about 6 years ago | (#24629507)

I'd do it myself, but my mod points expired ten minutes ago.

Re:Drop the script (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24624125)

Nah, I prefer a scripted storyline in games. If the story unfolded from what the player creates, that could be very boring or stupid. I want to be TOLD a story, not have to make one myself (that's what real life is for).

Re:Drop the script (1)

Ayavaron (971110) | about 6 years ago | (#24624195)

There was a PS2 game called Way of the Samurai that was sort of like what you describe. At most, the game was only about two hours long but you could play the scenario any way you wanted and the story would branch at virtually every player action. It wasn't done procedurally but it was a dang cool idea.

I never played it myself though. I don't know how well it achieved the things I read that it was supposed to be.

Re:Drop the script (1)

Das Modell (969371) | about 6 years ago | (#24625035)

I guess it would be sort of cool, but it would never lead to any truly meaningful story telling. The industry is still, after all these years, cautiously poking at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to normal story telling, so I don't think they'd do a very good job with dynamically generated stories. Video games could do a lot that film and literature can't, but is anyone exploring those possibilities? Probably not. So let's not start running towards the next best thing just yet.

Re:Drop the script (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625501)

I agree. The story wouldn't necessarily have more point than real people's story, well it would have about as much a point as you would made it have, i.e. you'd need ambitions (in game) to achieve anything meaningful, and even them it probably wouldn't be an award winning storyline, but who knows. I think it's more a matter of gameplay than story telling. If you play games to be told a story, I can't argue with that, even if that's strange to look for stories in games in my opinion. However from a strict gameplay point of view it's interesting for a few reasons. The first reason is that in scripted games, there's little personal implications. You do what you're told to do over and over again everytime until you succeed at each and every single task. But your outcome is guaranteed. The story only occasionally gives you the choice in branching to give you a sensation of freedom, but that's it.

With such a global character simulation, nothing's guaranteed, you don't know how this is gonna end nor even how quickly it's going to end, and your stories will most likely have something in common that your mate's stories won't have because of your whole approach of things. And that's what's exciting. Of course the story on its own wouldn't be more exciting than any other criminal's biography, but it would be however superior for two reasons. It would be your story, based on your merits, on what you accomplished, on your decisions, but also it would make the story be actually reactive to what you do.

Whereas scripted storyline games are like climbing a tree, i.e. you can't affect it much, you can only choose your branches, non-scripted games would be like, a fast growing tree that you would bend around as it grows using all your weight, if that makes any sense.

Re:Drop the script (2, Insightful)

mirshafie (1029876) | about 6 years ago | (#24625105)

I think a completely dropped script would make for very boring gameplay. That wouldn't be storytelling at all.

Let me try to set up an analogy. I often have lucid dreams, I've had them since I were a little kid. But while there is in some ways a craze about lucid dreaming, with lots of people trying hard to achieve it nowadays, I find them boring.

Because non-lucid dreams tend to have a much richer storytelling, as if someone else dictates what will happen next and therefore I'm always taken by surprise.

The sort of complex free world that you're describing would of course be very interesting and extremely cool, but I doubt it would replace scripts. And as many other posters have pointed out, the technology needed for such a thing stretches far beyond what is available today. It's simply not within reach.

Re:Drop the script (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625569)

Well, I don't think it's like lucid dreaming at all. If I'm not mistaken, in lucid dreaming you do pretty much anything you like, even if what happens isn't always what you intended in the first place (I used to read some lucid dreaming 'transcripts' out of interest). In what I suggest, you wouldn't be in control of everything, far from that, actually it would pretty much be like it is now, the difference being that you would have an influence on the storyline, not so much control.

And no, the other people have little clue, even if they sound like they do (often the case on Slashdot). It doesn't "stretch far beyond what is available today", it's actually not that hard an algorithm, nothing like what the blithering know-it-alls out here make it out to be. You don't need to simulate every character's synapses, just a few psychological traits, and as other posters have pointed out, it's already been done before (just not with GTA games).

Re:Drop the script (0, Troll)

morari (1080535) | about 6 years ago | (#24626799)

I certainly wouldn't expect anything of the like from Rockstar Games. They do nothing but release buggy, unpolished titles. It's kind of sad really, that all of those "tardcore gamers" buy the stuff up just because it has sexual references and (im)mature language.

Re:Drop the script (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24649639)

Awwww, sounds like someone's mommy wouldn't buy him the big bad Mature rated game.

Let's all pout along with morari so he feels more included. :*(

Re:Drop the script (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | about 6 years ago | (#24628361)

That seems nice in concept but is probably very hard to deliver without making the underlying formula apparent. I think, as of how the technology stands now, I'd prefer a well constructed storying line with underlying theme crafted in to a storying that was pretty much jigsawed together. The reason I prefer the former is because I am starting to recognize the tried and true scenarios: 1. [fetch item/kill npc] at location X and return evidence to person Y who [rewards/betrays] you for your efforts; If [rewards] offer option to repeat step 1 or send to quest point 2 where step 1 is repeated by different npc. Thing is, when a story is boiled down to an algorithm, it loses much of the special idiosyncratic moments that are placed their by a writer, moments that can only occur once lest they lose their gravity.

Re:Drop the script (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24628499)

I know it's going to sound lazy of me but I detailed in some other posts in this discussion how my idea would be about basic psychological simulation more than anything else, so yeah there's no way you could really figure out the algorithm. Not that it's not a mission generating algorithm idea but more like a storyline replacement.

Re:Drop the script (1)

fj3k (993224) | about 6 years ago | (#24639529)

I really don't mind scripting the order of the missions; it would be nice to have a more dynamic order but as long as doing the missions themselves is fun I don't care. I'm either playing the game because I enjoy the gameplay (like GTA), or I'm playing to see what their story is (like in Drake's Fortune). I do have a problem with missions that force you to do them in one and only one way.

There are at least two forced motorbike missions in GTA IV; and I'll readily admit I suck at riding motorbikes in that game, and shooting at the same time is just annoying (which is not helped by the fact I prefer the controls with x as accelerate, which stops you aiming while driving). I got lucky on the first one, in that at the point I crashed I landed right next to the door of a taxi, and I rule the roads in cars, so the rest of the mission was a cinch. I haven't really tried the other one... I don't feel the need to work hard to improve a skill that is only useful for two missions in one game.

The thing I like about GTA is that there are so many ways that you can do most missions. You can sneak around and take out the guards quietly, or you can go in guns blazing; whatever is most comfortable. It's just a pity that there are missions like these where even if you place a car deliberately to help you with the mission, the game will take it away in the cutscene and magically make the traffic jam on the road disappear so you're forced to take the bike. And when the bike isn't fun, neither is the mission.

Re:Drop the script (1)

bemo56 (1251034) | about 6 years ago | (#24654599)

Chris Crawford is that you [storytron.com] ?

So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

dot45 (1135589) | about 6 years ago | (#24623629)

Well in GTA:4, although there is lots of eye candy, where are all the cool side missions? No cash for wheelies?stoppies? Heck, where is the TANK, i spent hours upon hours just seeing how long i could go before i blew up or the tank flipped, cant do that now :( Can't even take the Dodo for a joy-ride. I dont think i will be purchasing any further games in the series, if you think that you can sell me a game for $60 then turn around and sell me all the good content for more $$$.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

tomblag (1060876) | about 6 years ago | (#24623667)

Well in GTA:4, although there is lots of eye candy, where are all the cool side missions? No cash for wheelies?stoppies? Heck, where is the TANK, i spent hours upon hours just seeing how long i could go before i blew up or the tank flipped, cant do that now :( Can't even take the Dodo for a joy-ride. I dont think i will be purchasing any further games in the series, if you think that you can sell me a game for $60 then turn around and sell me all the good content for more $$$.

How was taking the dodo for a joy ride fun? While their automobile controls are really good. The controls they put in for any type of airplanes were always worthless.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

dot45 (1135589) | about 6 years ago | (#24623981)

its not supposed to be a sim game, but buzzing people with the plane was hilarious.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

chis101 (754167) | about 6 years ago | (#24624075)

I loved the dodo just because it was difficult to fly. It gave you a sense of accomplishment to be able to maneuver the dodo well at all.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (2, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24623697)

I never had the chance to play GTA IV yet but from hearing the things that are not present in the new game (i.e. airplanes, parachutes, jetpacks, etc..) and some user comments it seems that Rockstar has unfortunately stopped focusing primarily on 'fun'.

Buying the game for the wrong reason... (1)

Hamster Lover (558288) | about 6 years ago | (#24623935)

If you're buying GTA IV for "jetpacks" and "parachutes" methinks you're buying it for the wrong reason. There is a very deep and satisfying story element to the game. You're missing out if all you want to do is fly a jetpack. Although you can fly a helicopter and drive a speedboat if you wish. Both of which I found very satisfying since overall GTA IV didn't have to resort to "gimmicks" to make the game fun.

Re:Buying the game for the wrong reason... (1)

dot45 (1135589) | about 6 years ago | (#24623999)

My original point. Once you finish the "storyline", where is the fun stuff so you have a reason to play it? Online play is alright for the xbox360, but us ps3 owners got screwed on this deal. "Are you receiving mad signals from your mothership?"

Re:Buying the game for the wrong reason... (1)

Das Modell (969371) | about 6 years ago | (#24625071)

Deep and satisfying story? Bah. Some key moments were good, such as when you decide on the fate of the guy you're chasing, but the vast majority of the time there isn't even any story going on, you're just driving around and doing random missions for gangsters for no apparent reason (what does Niko do with all that money that he so desperately claims to need?). The actual story appears so infrequently that you sometimes forget it's even there.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

Talgrath (1061686) | about 6 years ago | (#24623991)

You're telling me you only bought GTA: San Andreas for parachutes, airplanes and jetpacks? Seriously? I think the game you're looking for is a flight simulator; not a GTA game.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

lokiomega (596833) | about 6 years ago | (#24624105)

You've got to be kidding me. When I played GTA 1 when I was a teenager what drew me to it is running people over aimlessly. I don't even think I got the million dollars to get past the first level. The whole fun of the game (and what kept me playing for hours on end) is the depth and silliness of all the stupid shit you can do.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24625325)

It's not because a fun aspect of a game is secondary that it shouldn't make it to the game's sequel. Being able to jump off the top of a mountain with a BMX and open your parachute is fun, among a plethora of other things that made GTA San Andreas fun. You'd expect that these fun aspects would be improved on rather than rid of.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

Jorophose (1062218) | about 6 years ago | (#24626767)

Expect the next game in the series to have all that.

Vice City was different from GTA3, and introduced a lot of new and interesting features. The new engine was then used again, in GTA: San Andreas, and it featured three large sprawling cities in a desert, with jetpacks and parachutes, and actual planes, and bicycles, and other such stuff that VC lacked.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24626943)

Well I don't really see how the current trend encourages you to think that. I mean if it was in SA but not in IV I doubt it'll be in the future iterations of the game.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

Jorophose (1062218) | about 6 years ago | (#24629145)

GTA VC lost a lot of things that were in previous games.

And VC is a lot smaller than say the original GTA, where you could go to all sorts of cities.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24633679)

But that had more to do with hardware limitations, a 2D city doesn't take up as much as a 3D one. Here they got rid of these things by choice, because they think the game is better off without it.

Re:So where have you failed the gaming community (1)

philspear (1142299) | about 6 years ago | (#24624857)

There are a lot of cool side missions. An achievement for wheelies, they had all the jumps you needed to do, random strangers giving you mini missions. There are 200 pidgeons around the city you can shoot to get prizes. Hidden weapons. Dating.

What you're upset about is that it didn't take the best parts of san andreas (IE the little extras) and replace the parts about that game that sucked (IE the graphics and story.)

I aplaud rockstar for making a sequel rather than a clone.

They did a LOT of testing on Portal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623637)

And it seemed to make that a much better game.

Re:They did a LOT of testing on Portal (1, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24623709)

And it seemed to make that a much better game.

IMHO they killed its potential and lifespan by not giving it a level editor. I mean that was a great game, but what are you gonna do now that you know the cake is a lie? Play the same 20 or so levels over and over again? As a built-in level editor would have been just mad!

Re:They did a LOT of testing on Portal (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623773)

http://www.portalmaps.net/

Re:They did a LOT of testing on Portal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623777)

you could use hammer
http://portalmaps.wecreatestuff.com/ [wecreatestuff.com]

Re:They did a LOT of testing on Portal (3, Informative)

Z34107 (925136) | about 6 years ago | (#24624193)

As others have pointed out, the Hammer editor (it comes with your Steam install) is used for making portal maps. Same tools the devs used, actually.

It's also used for making Team Fortress 2 maps, Half Life maps (and mods), Day of Defeat maps... You can pretty much make maps/mods/characters/weapons/etc for any game based on the source engine. For the most part, it's pretty intuitive, too.

first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623641)

first post! woot!

Epic fail (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623781)

Epic fail! Ha!

Too bad (1)

malkir (1031750) | about 6 years ago | (#24623643)

Rockstar sold out and is only giving downloadable content to the 360 owners, once you beat the game it's fucking BORING.

Re:Too bad (1)

Doug52392 (1094585) | about 6 years ago | (#24625943)

Off topic here, but the DLC has actually been delayed. Possibly all the way until Q1 2009. I'll be returning my PS3 copy and getting the PC version when it comes out (November?) so I can just make my OWN extra content :)

Different approaches (2, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24623681)

We donâ(TM)t believe in focus testing ideas (itâ(TM)s like asking an audience what album they want to hear â" they donâ(TM)t know until they hear it!)

In art, the offer creates the demand more than the opposite. However if you're a marketing type and you want a sure shot, a product that you're sure people will want, you have to find out what the demand is.

Two different approaches really, an art-oriented risky but genre-defining approach, and a non-innovative but safe approach a couple of trains behind (i.e. the public follows the successful innovator, the EA-like company follows the public).

a fable (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 years ago | (#24624065)

"Slow and steady wins the race" from the Tortoise and the Hare by Aesop

Here's the deal, most marketing is useless bullshit, just noise. It's a ridiculous cancerous growth on commerce, a growth facilitated by the way publicly held corporations focus only on the short term...next quarter's profits better but up! Gotta throw more $$$ into marketing research!

Like the fable says, those who plan for the long term will win.

Focus groups vs. "making games WE like to play" is not just a "different tactic" it's the difference between being a loser vs. a winner.

Specifically with EA sports: Let's look at what new game innovations were created due to focus groups vs. game innovations thought up by designers who love games. We'd find that the innovations that came from focus groups were generally regarded as useless by actual gamers (unless you hire the same people who did the focus group to do surveys of the effectiveness of the new innovations their focus groups lead to...)

This kind of marketing is a self perpetuating hydra spewing filth in all directions.

Dear Sam, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24623909)

How can I get laid more? There are no women here in Mom's basement, and my social skills are nonexistent. What do you recommend I do?

Re:Dear Sam, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24627235)

Escort service? You have a phone, don't you? And money, preferrably lots of it.

why 2 links (1)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | about 6 years ago | (#24623945)

Why put 2 links to different pages of the interview? Just link to the first page of the interview and that's it. We'll find out that he talks about why he rejects focus testing while reading TFA.

Re:why 2 links (2, Insightful)

tirerim (1108567) | about 6 years ago | (#24624227)

Presumably because the link to the second page in TFA is in a non-obvious location -- it's only in the sidebar, not at the end (or beginning) of the actual article.

Re:why 2 links (1)

Aluvus (691449) | about 6 years ago | (#24630737)

I didn't even see the "previous interview" and "next interview" links on the articles until I deliberately set about finding such links. I did spot the links under "recent features", but those will eventually move down the queue and out of sight. So it's actually somewhat helpful for TFS to link to the 3 articles. Granted, better web design could have made the additional links unnecessary.

Tossing softballs (2, Insightful)

Akoman (559057) | about 6 years ago | (#24624209)

I hate how this interviewer softballs his questions:
"GTA IV asks the players to make a few key decisions during its story, and weâ(TM)ve seen another Take 2 game, BioShock, experiment with similar ideas. How further can that model be pushed? Is it something youâ(TM)d like to take further in future games?"

As if we haven't seen games providing two plot choices that affect game outcome in the past. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic jumps out as a very recent mediocre game that fits the bill there. The only thing exciting about Bioshock's decisions were that there were manifest benefits to selecting the immoral choice.

Railroads with junctions are not some new-fangled 'model' who's limits are waiting to be 'pushed.' It's old and stale.

Re:Tossing softballs (1)

Das Modell (969371) | about 6 years ago | (#24625061)

What an amazingly stupid question they managed to ask. I can't immediately think of anything specific, but I'm sure you could go back all the way to the eighties and find lots of games with branching storylines. In the nineties you'll of course find such classics as Fallout which provide you with a bit more than just a couple of decisions. Gamers have incredibly short memories.

Deathtrap Dungeon (1)

westlake (615356) | about 6 years ago | (#24628089)

but I'm sure you could go back all the way to the eighties and find lots of games with branching storylines.
.

There were the "Chose Your Own Adventures" and "Fighting Fantasies" in paperback. Deathtrap Dungeon [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]

Maniac Mansion for the C-64 and other home computers.

Re:Tossing softballs (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | about 6 years ago | (#24628017)

The only thing exciting about Bioshock's decisions were that there were manifest benefits to selecting the immoral choice.

But there actually weren't. if you add up the amount of Adam you get from the teddy bears, you get almost the same amount, it's only like 1 or 2 plasmids worth difference, and you get a few plasmids in the teddies, so really, there's no significant difference.

Maybe they should get some focus testing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24624659)

Gta4 while great lacked a great deal of things to do once the main storyline is over. I think they should stop talking so much shit about how great they are and get to coding some more shit for gta.

Oh, is GTA IV being considered a success? (0, Troll)

Uniquitous (1037394) | about 6 years ago | (#24625435)

I thought it sucked balls, personally. San Andreas was the much stronger title.

Rewriting history (0)

westlake (615356) | about 6 years ago | (#24627839)

'July 2005: Residue code found in San Andreas. Hackers modify it and it turns into scandal known as "Hot Coffee."
.

Tell me how you introduce new graphics, animation and game play into a console port that has been stamped out on a DVD:

Rockstar Games...initially denied allegations that the minigame was "hidden" in the video game, stating that the Hot Coffee modification..is the result of "hackers" making "significant technical modifications to and reverse engineering" the game's code. [T]his claim was undermined when Jay FNG Philbrook...released an "Action Replay Power Save" for the Xbox console, and codes for the PlayStation 2 Action Replay game enhancer... These new methods of accessing "Hot Coffee" demonstrated that the controversial content was, indeed, built into the console versions as well.

The creator of the original PC mod, Patrick Wildenborg...rejects Rockstar's claim that the mod required significant technical effort, pointing out that he only changed a single bit in the installed game's "main.scm" file, and that there is absolutely no new content -- every piece of the required code was already in-game, just not available to the player. The PC mod itself is just an edited copy of the game script files with the bit changed. The mod was also made possible on the console versions, by changing the bit inside a user's savegame...

The possibility of enabling the minigame by changing a single bit of code shows that the sexual intercourse content is part of the game's original data, and not new content inserted into the game by the mod. [It] is not possible to access the sexual content simply by playing the game... The fellatio animations are however clearly visible in the background of an early mission, "Cleaning the Hood", even in the re-released game. This may explain why the mini-game was not simply removed when the decision was made to cut it from the game: its assets were in use elsewhere. Hot Coffee minigame controversy [wikipedia.org]

The problem with Hot Coffee is the precedent it set.

This is the most poisonous scenario:

1 Embed easily accessible X-Rated content into an M-Rated game.
2 Spread the word around quietly - while retaining "plausible deniability." Let the modding community take the hit if anything goes wrong.
3. Profit

Bonus points if the developer has a reputation for pushing the envelope, ultra-violence, racial and sexual stereotyping, and cover-your-ass PR.

ooh complex... sex + drugs + violence = profit (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24628497)

Wow, how did they do it ?

"Hmmm, let's up the violence.
Let's... oh fuck it, that will do."

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