Pandaring and Ignoring to the Community

October 13, 2008

There is a recent interview on Gamasutra with Fallout 3 director Todd Howard and near the end of the interview he talks about the perceived crazy fanbase of Fallout accolades. Howard brings up the importance of listening to this vocal minority as well as trying to justify why Fallout 3 has taken a First Person Perspective as opposed to the series’s previous Tabletop RPG perspective. And his response to the fanboys is quite reasonable.

He also brings up the many “crazies” that Blizzard has. The most recent is the outcry over the visual aesthetic of Diablo 3. For those unfamiliar, it is the presence of a more colorful visual pallet over the Diablo Universe. The joke basically boils down to the presence of a rainbow in the back ground. To the right you will see a satiric little artist rendition of the new direction Diablo 3 is taking–thank-you 4chan.

Surprisingly, the gaming press has slammed the opinions of the rabid online community. Though this is unsurprising knowing their relation to the many message board trolls on the Internet, I believe it is unfair to simply disregard the fan community in favor of trusting the developer. Especially with known franchises, such as Fallout, it is understandable to see their discontent with the preceived “corruption” of a franchise they love. Imagine if Phoenix Wright became a Third-Person Adventure game. Though this may be viewed as a massive step forward for the license, there is an impression of loss towards the historic roots of these games.

But I do believe, that fan communities should have some
sort of say when it comes to games. I come from the unpopular belief that these games should be developed for the community as opposed to the shareholders. Star Wars Galaxies is an interesting case where the developers have a close relationship with the fan community after the release of the release of the “New Game Enhancements” back in 2005. Even in the case of Team Fortress 2, fun perks such as making taunts into kills or the balancing of certain classes is very important to the continued growth and maintaining of the game.

Coming back to Fallout 3, there does come a time where a necessary change is required. For Bethesda, the change of perspective made sense for the game the developer intended to make. Whether this decision was right or wrong will be determined when the game is released. We have seen similar failures for this shift in the case of Shadowrun which was a massive gamble for the developer. Personally, I believe the sole reason Fallout 3 had garnered the pass is because of the reputation of the developer–and that is not a bad thing. Though I believe the majority of game footage released has been uninspired and completely non-indicative of the actual gamplay experience, it will be interesting the compare both Shadowrun (below) and Fallout 3 (above) with their percieved successes and failures in shifting into a different genre of gameplay for their respective franchises.


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