Devs need to worry less about being inclusive and focus more on what they do best, JP Kellams says.
Japanese games won't get better until developers start trusting players more, according to Jean Kellams of Platinum Games. Kellams, writer and international coordinator for the Japanese developer, responded to a NeoGaf forum thread regarding the differing success of Japanese and Western games in a multi-tweet epistle on risk, execution, and most of all, friction.
Kellams said gamers look for exceptional games in a crowded market, an aspect that is risky to strive for without the massive budgets of Western publishers. He said Japanese developers have to focus on the ideas and themes they can do best and then communicate about them.
"Where Japanese games need to get better is reducing friction," Kellams said. He added that the tendency of Japanese developers is to actually add friction and bog down the game experience.
"Culturally, Japanese design is about being inclusive. They don't want anyone left behind, so they will add friction to an experience," he said. "Can I take your order. Hamburger. Hamburger is a piece of meat, two buns, ketchup and mustard. Are you sure you want a hamburger? Yes. That is friction. Western games stop when the user says hamburger. They assume that user intent is initially correct. [Japanese] games should too."
On disc DLC? Rootkit (Namco Bandai forcing CDProjeckt to include rootit for piracy)? PC games with no keyboard and mouse support...(Dark SOul)?
Yeah, they should stop screwing around, especially Capcom lately that simply disgust me to the point of boycotting any purchase with their logo on.
I think I felt friction reading that. Or not. I'm not sure wtf I read or felt, but someone probably owes me a couple minutes of my not so precious time.
You know what I consider "friction"? The constant scripted events that seem to make up about 90% of every game released these days. It just feels like the design team is taking control away from me to shout "HEY, LOOK WHAT WE MADE!"
A multi-tweet rant about confirmation screens..... get mad about it.
Hey Kellams, too many tweets - all this information is bogging me down! See how that works?
The problem Japanese developers have isn't just friction, it's the larger Japanese cultural problem of being too ridgid. Great for making efficient reliable cars, or iterating on a well-established formula (like Final Fantasy 19-B2 Super Turbo Edition), but not very good in general for a quickly changing, creative field like game design.
And that's not really something that's going to change any time soon.
@goldenocean Which is ironic when you consider they've made some of the quirkiest, inventive games in history. It's because Japanese society is so rigid and sedate that so many of their games, anime and movies are so crazily out there - it's a release medium for them. I guess exposition and explanation are just areas they just can't easily break their cultural background for.
@Carpetfluff That. And Japanese game design has been on the rise lately, it's just that people can't break off the habit of complaining about cultural differences to feel superior. The truth is that this generation many of the best games are still Japanese. No Western beat'em up has topped Bayonetta. No Western third-person shooter has topped Vanquish. No Western adventure/story-based game has been as mature and "out-there" as Catherine (and no Western game puzzle-based game has been as hard and tense either). No Western hack n' slash game has topped Demon's/Dark Souls (and no Western game has been even remotely as challenging as these, either). No Western developer is as interesting and different from the mold as Suda 51. No Western schmup was as innovative as Sine Mora this generation. And the list goes on. It's just that Western games are too easily distracted by open world shenanigans and think that's the be-all-end-all of gaming. It isn't.
Vanquish was one of the most boring repetitive gaming experiences ever. Its that typical arcade shooter have a seizure flashing lights crap. I got bored mid way through the demo. You're telling me Vanquish is a better third person game than Deus Ex Human Revolution? Batman Arkham City? Or even Gears of War 3? Please. They're games are often quite repetitive but so are a lot of American Games lately. I think a larger issue is that we're seeing so many TRULY brilliant innovations in gaming in the last five years that its hard to look past games that just exist has games have for decades. But over in the west you have the COD model, ie- knock off Halo, lather rinse repeat over and over annually because for some strange reason, people will pay you 60 bucks a year to play the same game over and over. To say the West or the East is the pinnacle of gaming is stupid. Both sides have made some innovative games, I do feel a lot of Western gamers have come to accept certain repetitiveness over here (like the COD forumla) and don't seem to notice. But the West has also cranked out the likes of Bioshock, Batman Arkham, Borderlands, Portal... there have been some significant advances of both mechanics and style thanks to those games. If anything, Eastern gaming has a serious publicity problem. How are they going to compete when they don't have the marketing budgets of Activision? And most of what the general gaming culture of American hears about Japanese games are the likes of what a train wreck FFXIII was. Outside of fighters, you don't see a lot of the Japanese games getting the right amount of exposure over here.
Its always a lot of factors coming together to cause an issue as large as the one Japanese games face in western markets. Its not a matter of one culture being better at something than another, its basically coke and pepsi, you drink the one you like better, but they're both successful at being soft drinks. The problems comes down to marketing, public image and finding a way to connect initially with western gamers so that they'll at least try a game out. If you can get a gamer to try a solid game, they will want to play its a flavor they like. Every gamer wants good solid games in whatever genre they favor. Its just how to get those games in front of them so they're even a choice to begin with.
Could be considered friction too, like unwanted ,useless or annoying info like youtube site , like suddenly be distracted by a trolling ,disturbing or simply dummie video, dumbly suggested(not mean to pun) by the site and to make you forget your main objective of search, just to it be more unlikely to visit more and more for you , finally trying to avoid it the highest possible you can? Whoa, such a long question.
I kind of get what he says culturally regarding Japan, I thinking he is getting at the point they may be more formal rather than the more casual style of the US; but I dont think this is really an issue in games.
Well, my favourite japanese games were Zelda and Final Fantasy VI for the SNES and then Final Fantasy Tactics for the Playstation. I still play them to this day, ~15 years later. Make more like that ! Friction? That may have something to do with it but I can't think of any japanese game I've played recently save for Dead Rising 2 / Resident Evil 5 where this doesn't seem to apply
@Raeldor From reading other people's comment I think I do. Basically Japanese games are giving players a lot of "things"/friction that slow the pace down like:
"Do you wish overwrite this save data" - Confirming it will lead to
"Are you sure you wish to overwrite this save data" and stuff like that which through a long term can waste a lot of time. Also they give a lot of detailed information about something which perhaps isn't necessary. Not entirely sure if this is what they mean by friction but feel free to correct me.
@Kentation You want to see friction in action? Sony are masters of it - this isn't a bash - but just using the dash on the PS3 or the Vita gives you the perfect example of doubled up questions and functions that have one more step than they really need.
@Carpetfluff I wanted to copy some PS3 saves to my cloud. They asked me the same "you wanna overwrite? YOU SURE!?" question 2 times. :|
This is simply nothing more than an excuse not to blame the real issues facing gaming as a whole, and instead of making comments like this to attempt to ingratiate gamers he should be including them as part of the problem.
Things have changed over the years. Gamers like me back in the 80's and 90's used to go down the the (insert store that sells games) and simply buy them for either the fun or entertainment value they give. Oh, yes.....i don't remember the region of the game playing a part in the purchasing of it.
Nowadays we have people making a big deal about every little thing in every game from wheat region the games are developed to how the game looks graphically to even complaining about specific voice actors being used for certain characters. In order to dislike what's IN the game, one must actually purchase said game and play it to find out how "inclusive" it is.
I don't look for exceptional games. I look for games that i know i will like and have fun playing, and i surely don't appreciate having a developer tell me what i look for in games....especially when they generalize it.
Actually I think it's risky to strive for that effort even with massive budgets in western publishers. The biggest problem in video games today is mirrored in the movie industry, which is that for big sales you can't spend any less than too much money on a title. No more will I consider dropping $60 on a game that *might* suck, or a game that looks neat but only plays for 5.5 hours. Nobody wants to buy a Lamborghini if it's going to handle poorly and break down - doesn't matter how good it looks, or how fun it is for those few hours.
Games didn't use to boil their priorities down to franchise hype > graphics > multiplayer > fun. I think some Western publishers started getting it backwards, and it became the above over time.
Once they can prioritize fun again, THEN we can talk about whether friction is detrimental to the play experience of Japanese published games.
Gamespot forgot to include the part where he says, "He likes Nintendo games becuase they are the most friction free games in a long time"
Which is half true in my opinion.
Sometimes, people such as myself like "friction." Details and more insight on a game adds to the context of its content. There are only a few games were I really enjoy that are simple in context (LittleBigPlanet and Mario), but only because they offer detailed design. Japanese game devs should just do what they want and hope the masses like it, rather than gathering to a popular light like moths.
@SonicNextGen2 I agree, and I think the article's cited Tweets are written by someone who missed the point. Friction in decision-making, in a game, is about as important to me as the background music for the title screen.
Kellam's example is an example of "exposition".
How many times have you sat there listening to a wordy "infodump" or "idiot lecture" in a game? Thats exposition. "Infodumps" and "idiot lectures" are terrible at driving the plot forward. And it isn't confined to Japanese games like what Kellam's would like you to believe.
Bethesda games are nothing more than a string of expositions. Blizzard's antoganists all suffer from the "idiot lecture". BioWare and Obsidian aren't immune to wordy expositions either.
I see where hes comming from and i agree a lot of japanese games do feel unessesary in that regard. its actaully a pretty valid point but it does suck that the attention span for games has shortened to so little.
Basically he wants them to cut down on the slightly dry and mechanical way they explain the game as it goes along; it's a very cultural thing - it's extremely Japanese to give a lot of information and get caught up in lengthy explanation - almost because they'd feel rude not to.
I don't think there is any one problem you can pin down with regards to Japanese games. They have their strengths and weaknesses like any oher game out there. There are just as many great Japanese games as there are western games. I think what's really going on here is Japanese studios are in a slump while western studios are on a hotstreak. Sort of. Lots of industry vets in Japan are leaving their bloated masters and opening their own studios while making way for new talent. It should sort itself out soon enough.
I don't mean to be a critic but he says "Culturally, Japanese design is about being inclusive. They don't want anyone left behind...", I have a hard time believing it because a lot of the games that I see that look cool that are coming out of Japan only are released there and in Europe on occasions. Very few of it comes out in the US, and when it does finally get here, they release a special edition version for Japan exclusively. Two examples being the Kingdom Hearts Final mixes, or Way of the Samurai 4.
I'm not saying that they have it all great over there. It just makes me feel like I'm missing out on things I shouldn't be. Even if the games turn out not to be as great.
@Jarten When they say they don't want anybody left behind they mean during the game experience. Meaning if a game actually does come to the states it's spoon fed. The reason they don't release a majority of their games here is because they won't sell, so it's not worth it to the publisher to bring it over here.
@dogman7 But the problem is with that, how can you POSSIBLE know for sure without taking a chance, and besides, do you really believe it cost THAT much to simply translate and ship over copies which they pennies on the thousands of dollar bills to manufactor.
@Zignoff Believe me, localization IS costly. I know, I translate games for my language (Brazilian Portuguese). The number of passes/batches/updates/corrections/testing phases is staggering. When I get to work on a game I'll be doing something on it every week for months. Thanks to that, even for just one language the cost is already high. Releasing in Europe requires at least four languages (FIGS - French, Italian, German, Spanish) besides English, so the cost is at least 4x more.
@Zignoff Personally, I'd love to see more imported games. But it's not just shipping, it's things like translations and marketing and a bunch of other small things that Eastern publishers aren't willing to invest in, and I don't blame them.
@dogman7 okay. I guess I really mistook what they were trying to say. I just reread the article and I think I understand it better now. Doesn't help when its late at night where I am right now. lol
I don't know what japanese games need, but it's more than friction.
And by friction, he means that they pollute the game with too much information and try to force context, instead of letting the player take the reigns and drive the story through gameplay.
What I've gathered from this news piece is that one time this Kellams fellow had trouble ordering a hamburger from a Japanese restaurant?
@Kracka2205 It means things could go smoothly (I'd like to equip x) but they add friction that slows you down (it'll add 10 points to str. but decrease your dex, are you sure you want to equip it?) When you're on a roll, that can be annoying. However, I don't think that's a major problem, this is just someone venting a frustration.
I miss the unique/crazy Japanese games. The westernization of Japanese games hasn't been going to well. But that's just my opinion. Maybe they could stick to smaller releases and do more games like they used to. More whacky off the wall games like previous generations.
@jubdeidamasta These games are out there. Catherine, Shadows of the Damned, Vanquish, Bayonetta, Demon's/Dark Souls, tons of RPGs for the DS (The World Ends With You in particular), some Strategy RPGs for the PS3/PSP (Valkyria Chonicles in particular) and so on. None of these are big (at least not in the West). It's just that the Western press doesn't give them the same attention anymore because everyone's in love with open-world shenanigans and multiplayer, something the Japanese don't do very well (and don't want to, probably). That doesn't mean the Japanese have stopped to make mid-tier games - they do, even moreso than the West, where you either spend 100 million or you best go for digital distribution, 'cause in retail your game is already dead on arrival.
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