Gaming Gripes – When Executive Decisions Override Creative Directions

A thing that often happens within the video game industry, is when games suddenly changes from their original idea. Sure, it’s not like talking about stage one from when the idea gets made and the difference in the released game at the last stage. No, I’m talking about when games completely changes from what it originally was promised to be or when what the creative directions had tried to make as their vision for us to enjoy… completely gets destroyed by executives decisions in order to make more money and therefore sacrifices the game that even isn’t completely finished upon release date.

 

For the third segment in the series, I’m proud to announce that today’s guest is none other than Robert from Adventure Rules. You might know him from his quite interesting Blogger Blitz or the many posts that goes into different opinion pieces about certain aspects from video games that he tells with perspective that makes me love this industry every time I read one of them.

 

Dear readers, I welcome you once again to:

 

GAMING GRIPES

 

Welcome Robert, to the (very late) third installment of Gaming Gripes. Today you have brought forth a fascinating topic people don’t really go that much into detail about. – Trinity

Thanks for having me! I’m definitely excited to dive into this – I wanted to get involved with Gaming Gripes when you first told me about it but it took me a LONG time to think of what to gripe about. But recently it hit me and I feel pretty good about this topic, as it is one that had a pretty big impact on one of my all-time favorite series. – Adventure Rules

That is great to hear this series made you so interested. While I can already guess we might go into what series exactly, may I ask why exactly you went with this instead of what plagued the gaming industry all throughout last year? – Trinity

 

I feel like a lot of the “popular” topics for griping (I assume you are referencing microtransactions here) don’t necessarily apply to all that many games that I play. A lot of the biggest stuff in the news generally applies to games that primarily appear on Sony or Microsoft’s consoles. Since I primarily play Nintendo I miss a lot of that stuff, and honestly 2017 was a strong year for Nintendo. Not much to gripe about, really, except for perhaps the overabundance of Wii U ports to the Switch. But since I never owned a Wii U, I certainly won’t complain about getting to experience those games for the first time. So while the particular issue I have brought to gripe about may not feel as immediately relevant as some other topics I could have picked, it’s one that has impacted a few different games I have played in the past and one that may have a modern example that I just don’t know about yet! – Adventure Rules

 

I don’t know, Nintendo has had its issues related to gaming within the Youtube community due to its Nintendo Creators Program on which it changed it so people couldn’t stream Nintendo games upon the Youtube Platform. However, that is an entirely different manner than what we’ll be talking about.

Though, just for the sake of the reader, what topic will we be talking about today exactly? – Trinity

 

Ah yeah, as a blogger that one didn’t occur to me, but as you said, that’s a gripe for another day – perhaps someone more experienced with YouTube could have that conversation with you better than I!

 

The gripe that I have brought forth for your consideration today is this: when executive decisions override creative direction. Because games are a business, sometimes decisions are made on a business level that impact more creative aspects of the game like the story being told or the characters present within that story. These decisions can also impact gameplay, the release timeline – a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff impacts what we as the players get to experience, and sometimes decisions made with marketing or business in mind have a negative impact on the games we play. – Adventure Rules

 

Fascinating indeed, and I completely agree that this is a problem persisting within the video game industry.

A good example of this would just letting us point in the direction of recent EA games, this not counting their microtransaction mishabits but also how these decisions can put a hamper on the creator themselves.
Are there any specific ones you want us to take a look at for this discussion? – Trinity

 

I thought of a couple of different examples I know of and figured that you might know of some that I hadn’t played. One of the most egregious I learned about growing up was the Knights of the Old Republic II debacle. The game was developed by Obsidian but of course as a result of being within the Star Wars universe, LucasArts oversaw the whole operation. After the success of the first KOTOR they really wanted to push for a holiday release date. Obsidian had a lot of content they were working on and a lot of testing still to do and felt like a holiday release was impractical. But LucasArts was focused on the business side of things (I imagine they had huge cartoon dollar signs in their eyes at the prospect of selling gangbusters during the Christmas season) so they compelled Obsidian to meet a ridiculous deadline. As a result, KOTOR II was released with quite a bit of content left on the cutting room floor in addition to a number of bugs and glitches. – Adventure Rules

 

Oh, this is something that happens a lot to many other games and movies as well when I think about it, but it is video games that we are talking about here.

One thing to remember here is that it was the people behind LucasArts in the made a tremendous mistake. This is what I believe is something that also EA, Disney and Activision suffers from, since they too pushes for games that can be released on certain days within holidays to get that money in their wallets.

The difference then and now is that as of today companies have the idea that, while true, goes into having games not being as good upon release date but further down the line.

Here the companies believe patches solves the problems but fails to look at the development up until the release date for their newest game.

A good example for a game rushed out of the door and only now is something that became a good game to play is Ubisoft’s The Division and Hanger 13’s Mafia III… also who cannot remember Bioware’s Mass Effect Andromeda? – Trinity

 

Oh yeah, I heard ALL about Andromeda and the facial expressions. And while it helps that you can patch some of these errors after the fact, it isn’t always easy to do even that. In my situation, for example, one of the bugs in KOTOR II made the game totally unplayable for me when I reached a specific cut scene. To find the patch for my computer, I had to search the bug online, find a forum where someone had posted the fix, follow a link to another website to download the patch…not every problem caused by a rushed release can go away easily.

I believe it was Shigeru Miyamoto who said “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” That may not be as true now as it was in the early days of the hobby, but when a game is rushed and the version we get seems unfinished, it’s unfortunately the players who have to deal with the company’s mistake. – Adventure Rules

 

True in every word and I remember the struggles for finding that stupid patch that eventually I just gave up and didn’t finish the game in the end.

However, now that you just brought up Miyamoto-san. This would be a good time to talk about even how a creative director can mess up a game upon its release day.

Because behind the scenes before this discussion began you showed me a link to an article about Paper Mario that had to ditch its story on the order of the creative director himself. – Trinity

 

Oh yes. This is the example that frustrates me the most, because it took what was once my favorite series and (in my opinion) drove a stake through its heart.

The Paper Mario series followed in the footsteps of Super Mario RPG for the SNES, giving us a Mario roleplaying game that really explored the Mushroom Kingdom in a unique way. The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario in particular featured intricate stories set in far-flung lands where a lot of the familiar Mario elements were missing in favor of weirder fare. A lot of folks who were big fans of the series loved that about the games.

When it came time for the fourth game in the series, Sticker Star, to begin development, Mr. Miyamoto made some pretty strong statements about the direction of the game. Specifically, that there would be no storyline and that the only characters needed to be those from Super Mario Bros.

 

Now based on what I have read, those decisions were made due to some kind of online poll that was taken which stated that most fans didn’t like the story in Super Paper Mario. It’s not a criticism I agree with, but if many fans felt that way, then fine. However, there’s a difference in not liking a particular story and thinking that there shouldn’t be a story at all. Most of the Paper Mario fans I know, particularly those who love the first two games the most, love the storytelling of the games. So when Sticker Star came out and had almost no story to its name at all, and featured only Mario, Peach, Bowser, and some Toads, it was a pretty disappointing game. It’s one of the few games I have ever sold back to the retailer out of sheer dissatisfaction with the title. – Adventure Rules

 

Unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure to play any of the Super Paper Mario games. Still, when reading about this it becomes an indicator that it wasn’t just the poll but also through the decision of Mr. Miyamoto-san that the game didn’t do well here in the West.

Which I guess is something we all must remember, that games from companies in a different country will usually aim for their own people first before how it will do in others.

I couldn’t find any information on the poll taken or how well Sticker Star did in Japan but there could have been a better sale over there than here.

 

Let me ask you this then mate. Was it wrong for the company to go with this decision or should they have gone with what other people liked before?

As of many times there’s a problem to be looked at when we talk about games that are changed because of executive decisions. Often it either lies with the company that releases the game, the producers who put the money for the game to be made or the developers themselves who wants to change things that in the end will hurt the games more than make them better. – Trinity

 

Now THAT is a loaded question! After all, if games never change or push boundaries then ultimately the hobby will become boring and stale. The only reason I can look back now and say “ugh, Miyamoto made a terrible decision” is because I played the game and thought it was awful. Had Sticker Star turned out to be brilliant, the conversation would be different, right? “Mr. Miyamoto is a visionary! Who else would dare to remove the storyline from a roleplaying game? How brilliant!” Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s difficult not to contextualize the past with knowledge from the present. Look at Breath of the Wild – a lot of people don’t like some of the decisions made around that game (weapon durability being a prime example), but since overall the game is a critical success folks can cite it as a positive example of change rather than a negative one.

 

Ultimately though, I don’t think it’s possible to know whether a decision was right or wrong until after the fact. And that’s muddied even further by the fact that there are multiple measures of “right” versus “wrong.” Critic rating, fan rating, sales charts, all of these things can contradict each other in some cases. For example, The Thousand-Year Door has a much better critical rating than Sticker Star but sold less copies. So was Miyamoto’s decisions “wrong?” I guess that ultimately depends on whether he made his decision to sell cartridges or to impress fans! – Adventure Rules

 

Just on a quick note, the weapon durability wasn’t that bad in terms of Breath of the Wild, I have played games like Far Cry 2 where it was a critical design aspect of the game. Actually what turned me off from the beginning before trying a small amount at a venue of the game was all the saying in articles from numerous reviewers that it was a “masterpiece”…it’s not, but it is a very good game though the story suffers majorly from it becoming a more open-choose-your-own-way kind of game than previous titles.

 

That is why when we look at games being ruined by the executives decisions, where exactly should people know to take the blame?

One of the more famous stories are about how Konami with their shenanigans with Kojima-san ruined Metal Gear Survived as it got released. That game became known as a terrible mess. – Trinity

 

(Oh yeah, I actually like the durability mechanics in Breath of the Wild, I think it adds a lot to the game and is essential to maintaining the feeling of a survival experience)

I’ve heard a lot of muttering about Konami and Kojima with Metal Gear but I honestly know very little about the situation – for my sake (and perhaps the sake of readers who are like me) can you elaborate a bit on that? – Adventure Rules

 

This article goes very deeply into the full story on what happened between Kojima-san and Konami.

To sum it up as an easy digestible read, since because of NDA’s (non-disclosure-agreements) nobody will never know the full story. Kojima and Konami got at each other’s throaths because of some disagreements when it came to the newly developed FOX engine that Metal Gear Phantom Pain and Silent Hill (P.T.) was going to take advantage of. However, things went wrong between them and suddenly Hideo Kojima-san’s name was removed from box arts of the Metal Gear games (Phantom Pain and Ground Zero), plus on a bonus whenever Konami was interviewed what had happened they would always response that Kojima-san had gone on holiday.

 

All in all nobody will ever know what happened but it was evident that it came down to licensing, creative decisions and money…there’s always something about money in these situations. – Trinity

 

 

For sure. After all, video games are a business and at the end of the day, money is what every publisher or developer needs in order to stay in business.

You mentioned earlier the idea of knowing who should be assigned the blame for these kind of things – that’s an interesting and important discussion when it comes to these things. I read a really good article about Mass Effect Andromeda awhile back which discussed the obscene amount of blame falling on female character designers, when in reality a lot of the problems that folks had with the game could actually be assigned to executives or higher-ups who were making decisions. It’s important for us as gamers to know who to gripe at when we do have complaints about this kind of stuff before we just start spouting stuff on the internet – which is a long-winded way of saying that I appreciate that you’ve done your research and you’re willing to ask the hard questions. Just having any ole gamer show up here and complain about stuff without challenging them to think intellectually about it could get into some dangerous territory. Having the discussion has definitely gotten me thinking about the gripe in a more complex way than just “some people messed up my games and I’m mad about it.” – Adventure Rules

 

Really glad to hear it, though even when Kim and I talked about if video games are bad for us. She was the one who came with all the articles and I only had something along the line of breadcrumbs to give back, but it came out in the end as something with a very interesting talk between us both. All I ask is that if you are angry, be angry and let it show… just don’t swear, as we still can be civil when discussing between each other (feeling like a gentlemans club where we slap the other with a glove instead of punching).

 

Now, we must not forget you also wanted to talk about a certain game series that also had gotten an impact on one of your series as well? Think it was about a game where you are an attorney or something, think you wrote a piece on its 5th version in the series. – Trinity

 

 

Ah yeah, this one is interesting because I don’t think the negative outcome necessarily showed right away, but maybe impacted other games in the series more than the one where the original decision was made. You may be able to comment on this as I believe you’re playing through the series as well?

 

Anyway, the last game I specifically mentioned when we began talking about this discussion was Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. This was the fourth game in the Ace Attorney series and the first to feature a protagonist other than Phoenix Wright. Now the creator of the series felt that Phoenix’s story had been told completely, and it was important to him that stories have a strong and satisfying ending. He didn’t want to draw out Phoenix’s story forever until it no longer had meaning. So Apollo Justice was supposed to focus exclusively on a new protagonist and new characters. Ultimately, Capcom stated that Phoenix needed to be in the game, so he was incorporated as a supporting character.

 

I thought Phoenix’s role in Apollo Justice worked really well. He was a cool mentor to Apollo and finding out the truth behind why he wasn’t an attorney anymore was compelling. However, I feel like Phoenix’s continued presence in future games following Apollo Justice feels more forced. Having him in the first new game makes sense – it connects Apollo to the original series in a meaningful way. However, having Apollo as the protagonist for one game and then having him take a backseat to Phoenix in Dual Destinies felt rather odd. So, this decision is interesting compared to the others because its short-term impact may have been positive, but one could interpret the long-term impact as being negative. What are your thoughts on that? – Adventure Rules

 

 

It’s an interesting thing with the Ace Attorney series. Yes, I do believe it felt like Phoenix’s story was complete at the end of Trial and Tribulations. Though, once I played Apollo Justice, it all became clear that it was okay to move on with the game as Capcom showed with the new team that worked on it…that is to say, as I got to play Apollo the one thing that was weird was of him being a little too similar to Phoenix (disregarding his power).

So, when it then came to Dual Destinies as I’m playing at the moment (looking forward to Spirit of Justice), it didn’t bother me as much the way the game has been letting it be played out in a Memento style story.

In the end, I think I’m on the opposite side of this spectrum having accepted the continuation and enjoying seeing how Phoenix grows older and the gang that becomes bigger with it. No, it’s the god damn logic that always bugs the hell out of me with all the games.  Seeing it from a strategic point from the company and fanbase, it was a good decision that with each new game will show to be better with its story, characters and overall world. – Trinity

 

Ha, now that’s a gaming gripe all on its own – following the obtuse logic of game puzzles/challenges! – Adventure Rules

 

Yeah, it makes good sense that you could go with a full gripe on that…. potential sequel for this? – Trinity

 

Maybe so! To continue on from your point, I can certainly see how having Phoenix around can only be good for the series moving forward. Particularly having started Spirit of Justice – that game feels like Phoenix is involved in a much more meaningful way compared to my estimation of Dual Destinies. I can’t imagine Spirit of Justice working without him. – Adventure Rules

 

I completely agree with you there mate, but to back to what your topic for this Gaming Gripe. Is there a way we can make it better for the video game industry? Or is this an impossible to tackle?

Somwhere there must be a way for the industry to learn from their mistakes instead of making the same ones over and over again…but then again that would only be looking at it from one angle. These would be your closing argument for this segment. – Trinity

 

I think as fans, the best thing we can do is be smart consumers – use your dollar to buy games that support the kinds of decisions you want to see succeed. Games that are delayed to make sure the fans are satisfied rather than games that are rushed to meet a deadline, games where the fan’s thoughts about a certain character or story are taken into account – it pays to be educated not only about who is making decisions but whether you like those decisions or not.

Ultimately, though, I think it falls to folks in the industry to collaborate better. Just because an executive has the authority to make a sweeping decision about a game, they need to understand and respect the creative input of folks underneath them on the totem pole. The folks with boots on the ground working hard on a game tend to be able to see things that aren’t as visible to those further away from the process – that input should be valued in the decision-making process. – Adventure Rules

 

This I agree with, we as a consumer must be able to voice our opinions in a decent manner that the people in the video game industry can take notice off and make it go through to the higher-ups, in hopes that a game will not falter to the greedy part of becoming a bad game because of it.

Thank you so much for being a part of this Robert, this discussion has made some pointers clear that I hadn’t even thought of from your perspective. It has been a pleasure to have you on Gaming Gripes, with a potential to come back and do more in the future. – Trinity

 

For sure, it’s been a blast! Thanks for giving me the opportunity, it has been both a fun and an educational experience. – Adventure Rules

 

Where might people find you in case they want to learn more of your wisdom? – Trinity

 

Well, I have a gaming blog at adventurerules.blog, where I post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays about video games and various related shenanigans. You can also find me on Twitter @adventure_rules where all of my articles are shared and where I share content from other bloggers as well as smaller thoughts that don’t quite make it to post form. I have some stuff going on surrounding a community event of my own right now, so folks who want to get involved in the game blogging community will definitely want to come check it out! – Adventure Rules

 

 

This discussion went better than I had anticipated, Robert really went in with a particular gripe that had bugged him for some time, while bringing with him a couple of links to really emphasize on what the problem could be. When looking back on this discussion, it becomes clear that it might not be the biggest problem. Yet, it is the one that many video game companies could learn from so they don’t let executive decisions kill the creative directions of a game we all should love and enjoy.
Enough about that though, I want to hear your thoughts about this topic. Do you see executive decisions override creative directions or is it a simple fact that it has to happen in order for the video game to sell amongst us consumers?
Do write it down in the comments what your perspective is on this matter.

While you’re at it, do go by Adventure Rules website as well as his Twitter, to give Robert a follow and let him know how you feel about this. Beware though, he might hook you in immediately with his opinion pieces.

 

 

If you enjoy this series, it’s easy to find the first one here that covers the topic of “characters doing stupid things in cutscenes”, or the second in which the discussion tries to figure out if “video games are bad for us”.

 

Stay Cozy and have a nice day!

3 thoughts on “Gaming Gripes – When Executive Decisions Override Creative Directions

Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Adventure Rules and commented:
    As part of my ongoing Adventure Rules Remastered effort, I am adding posts from other blogs which are part of my community events or in which I provided text or content. In this case, I had a great interview with Triform Trinity where we spoke about a serious gripe I have about the gaming industry. Go check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

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