Opinion: Industry Asshole Guilt Trips Part I

From Adrian Chmielarz, a designer of one of the most lucrative game franchises of all time:


Can you guess what’s doubling game budgets and development time? It’s not technology. It’s not “finding the fun”. It’s not asset creation.

It’s you and me, the gamers, the ultimate trolls.

Almost every game could be done for half the price and twice as fast if not for the fact that it needs to feature a metric fuckton of anti-troll security measures.

LD: Hmm. Yeah, we don’t want to ruin the immersion. Okay, let’s fix this. Let’s have it so the players do drown if they don’t leave the room. But the sidekick should keep encouraging us to follow him.

PRODUCER: Wait. Let me get this straight. We need to produce additional water effects, record extra sidekick voice-overs and mo-cap new body and face animations, have vfx artists produce underwater screen post-process, have the programmers hook it up, and create drowning animation, sound, effects and code?


It’s obviously easier to make a room that looks like it’s going to flood than to actually make it flood and be dangerous–but then… why have a flooding room in the first place? Why is it incumbent on the player to pretend a fake flooding room is just as meaningful as an actually flooding room? This is part of the trend in modern games to try and give the player the impression of things happening, without actually designing it in the game (QTEs are the most obvious example of this.)


I think it was one of the Skyrim developers who said that the secret to their game (from the budget and production scale point of view) was that they actually sort of ignored the trolls. If someone wanted to screw up their experience – no problem

That’s why you have all these videos with people putting buckets on poor shopkeepers’ heads. The developer just didn’t care. It seemed to work for them just fine. I wish I could be this brave. I need to learn how to be this brave. Because I’ve just wasted the last two hours staring at my new game design document, and thinking: “But what if they go through the bridge backwards”?


The Skyrim universe is literally imploding as you play it. Not only did Bethesda not give a shit what happened if you “went back over the bridge”, they didn’t give a shit what happened if you used the game in totally natural and expected ways. Your quest journal breaks almost instantly, the quests–themselves–would routinely break making progress impossible, items you dropped would become kinetically charged and launch themselves at you, every 5th or 6th arrow that hit you would stick in your character model indefinitely, NPCs got stuck in rocks, quest items would duplicate and become impossible to remove from your inventory, certain areas would stutter and lag to the point where you feared for your console. Never mind that Skyrim as a whole was a totally unrealized project with cardboard depopulated towns, retarded enemies, and cookie-cutter dungeons with superfluous randomly generated loot.

This is it, right? When the people making hundreds of millions of dollars selling you games feel secure enough to call you a “troll” for standing on a chair when you’re not supposed to, when they accuse you of ratcheting up development costs because you expect the level to not explode when you walk back through the door you came in, when they hold appalling negligence as an example of “bravery” in game design.


“The company that employed me strived only to serve up the cheapest fare that its customers would tolerate, churn it out as fast as possible, and charge as much as they could get away with. If it were possible to do so, the company would sell what all businesses of its kind dream about selling, creating that which all our efforts were tacitly supposed to achieve: the ultimate product– Nothing.”
Thomas Ligotti

This is you

Gamers, this is you.