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The case for MOR games.

November 14, 2007 in Community by

Today’s games industry has many strange and wonderful features. Its most distinguishing feature is the current dominance of technology-focused, so-called “triple-A” games at the top of the market. These shiny, spangly games command the lion’s share of the marketing money, media attention and newspaper headlines. At the other end of the industry, we have the “casual games” market, which encompasses card games like Windows Solitaire, Minesweeper, the various “Match-3″ variants and their like.

And there is almost nothing – nothing — in between.

Which is strange, because the other media aren’t like that at all. Take radio, for example…

The triple-A games sector is like the radio channels which play chart hits. Most of them seem much the same to jaded thirty-something (and older) ears, because nobody’s invented a truly new musical instrument or technique in years. (Even sample-based music dates back to the musique concrete movement of the 1940s, when tape-based recording appeared.) Younger listeners love it: they weren’t even born in the 1970s, let alone the 1940s, so it’s still all new to them. Occasionally, you do get a real gem or classic, but by far the majority of the output in this sector is soon forgotten.

Then we have the Casual Games sector. This is the “Classic” (and Classical) music of the gaming world. It’s comfort music for those who are put off by the brash, noisy, in-yer-face racket of the chart hits. It’s nice and safe. Easy to pick up and listen to. Why? Because, by the time it’s reached this channel, it’s pretty much accepted that the music is good. That’s why it’s considered a “classic”.

Finally, we the music industry has its MOR (“Middle Of the Road”) music channels. Musicians still write music in any of a thousand different genres. John Williams still writes what sounds like classical music to most people. Danny Elfman, Enya or Mike Oldfield sit here. Ditto Paul McCartney, the Eagles and Harry Connick Jr., who sings the same music your grandmother was listening to in her youth.

And this, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is what our own industry lacks: We have no MOR Games channels. Why should gamers be penalized for liking games in genres long considered unfashionable by the triple-A crowd, but which the Casual Games folks find too complicated? When 3D games became fashionable, people started writing off 2D platformers. But why? Why should progress in a genre stop merely because some new technology makes other designs possible?

Give us MOR games, I say!

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15 Nov 2007, 7:55 am

I heartily agree. It feels like admitting that I’m into The Cure (I still think they’re great), but my favorite all-time games are The Curse of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Difficult, totally engaging, and hilarious, and no insane aggressiveness. There must be a game out there somewhere that compares to the LucasArts classics…

15 Nov 2007, 7:27 pm

Have you checked out Telltale Games’ new “Sam & Max” episodes? They’re point and click too. Sadly, they’re PC-only, which is a shame as they don’t work under Parallels or VMWare, and I detest rebooting my iMac just to play a single game.

I love these more literate games myself and was considering Unity as an engine for something along the lines of the old SCUMM games. Unfortunately, I don’t have an artist at the moment, so that’s on the back-burner. :)

17 Nov 2007, 8:46 am

I like that people are thinking about this. Games sure are less explorative than they used to be. Why not run a contest to bring a few of these out of the woodwork?

Jacques-Francois Mostert
20 Nov 2007, 9:51 am

You guys are doing a great job. Though, how about a division that writes games using your editor ? You can use C# scripts as the language your game components are written in, and then in C++ compile and run them using the .NET framework. I’m definately going to implement this for my own home-grown 3D engine, as soon as I have the alternative fuel industry in shock and awe, haha. “Yes, did you know you can actually run your car on water.”.

I’d like to be part of the Unity team. I’m currently the Lead programmer at a consulting company. Though they have nothing to do with games, and yes sometimes we play them at work.. i.e. Counter Strike Source, Eve-Online..etc. but actually writing games is more my thing, if you know what I mean. Writing the 3D engine for my current project, has taken me an enormous amount of years, as long as its taking 3d Realms to develop and finish their “Duke Nukem Forever” title.

I live in South Africa. I am 24 years old. Starting computer programming at age 12, got my first computer at age 11. Been into graphics and games ever since.

I had a few pictures and screenshots and code samples untill about a year ago when all my harddrives on my computer started crashing one after the other. Man that sucked. But luckely I had my 3d engine on a USB FlashDrive. Did that save my heart from going into nuke-meltdown phase 9, haha.

You guys should setup office in South Africa. There are loads of game developers here that really need a job. We only have one well known company in Johannesburg that do game development…there are others, but this is the only well known one… “I-Imagine”. http://www.i-imagine.co.za

Best Regards,
Jacques.

Cole Wardell
4 Dec 2007, 8:01 am

I’d like to propose a MOR game: Portal. It’s a fairly simple concept: go in one portal, come out the other. That makes it fairly easy for a casual player to pick up. But it’s definitely made with high standards. The voice-acting is flawless, and the humor is dark. Everything looks top of the line. Portal is what a MOR could easily be.

5 Dec 2007, 3:57 am

@Jacque-Francois Mostert: Try dropping us an email. (See our “Jobs” section under “Company” for contact details.) The Unity team has members spread around the world, so teleworking isn’t unusual.

@Marble: We ran a similar contest recently called “Top DOG”. The winners were announced at the Unite’07 conference, but there is a thread in the forums covering the results. Some very interesting games and ideas there, particularly in the area of website integration. Competition entries for that one mainly used Unity 1.x, but I would be surprised if another competition wasn’t run next year. Unity 2 has a lot more to offer, enabling many more outside-the-box game designs.

@Cole Wardell: Portal is fun, but relies a little too much on having good reflexes later on. (It’s interesting to compare it with this 2D homage: http://www.armorgames.com/games/portaltheflashversion_game.html. The 3D version avoids the problem where the player can see where he wants to place a portal, but can’t put one there because the game says his avatar can’t see it. The 3D version’s advantage is its inherent limitation of the player’s view of the world.)

Joe Piepiora
29 Dec 2007, 5:55 am

I’ve just stumbled across this software, and if the networking in a web-browser works as promised than I think I found the engine for my Garage games contest entry! Great work here guys! Here’s to MOR games!

22 Apr 2008, 10:59 am

Man, you put into simple words what I’ve been feeling desperate about for a while, and that is so difficult to explain to AAA-publishers and ZZZ-portals.
Now I have a name for the games we do, MOR games, I like it!

17 Sep 2010, 1:55 am

When I just recently came across your blog and started reading along, I thought I’d leave my very first comment. I don’t know what to say other than I really enjoyed reading through. Very good website. I am going to continue coming to this blog on a regular basis.

17 Jun 2011, 5:51 pm

Thanks, I’ve just been searching for information about this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve discovered till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?

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