Last Saturday I attended two sessions of the Non Trivial Interaction conference at the British Film Institute, in London: Peter Molineux: The Trailer and Playing with Games.
Both talks were very exciting, since I am particularly interested in creative play and mods.
Peter Molineux started his talk with considerations on next generation games, and compared three different moments of the industry:
1989 - Games presented abstract concepts, took a team of 2-4 people and generated 2-3 billions in sales.
2005 - Games start using mass market concepts, taking 100-200 people to make them. The industry seems to generate, now, around 35 bn.
2006+ - From next year on, games will adopt unique mass market concepts, more than 200 people and generate 60+ bn.
Next Generation games, Molineux added, will feature clear concepts, accessibility, ease-of-use, deep interaction, be adaptable to the player's preferences and agenda and have morphable gameplay. They will also give the player the ability to create something.
Plus, the games (or game worlds) will be always online.
He started, then, talking about his next games, The Movies and Black & White 2,
while his assistant played the games in the projection screen. The Movies, as Molineux demonstrated, is very simple game to play, where the player basically has to drag and drop characters and elements in buildings to run his studio (and the game has a very transparent interface, indeed). You can also play it as a more typical sim/manager game or use it to make your own animated movies, taking advantage of lip-sync technology. Summarizing, The Movies featured almost every desirable next-gen concept presented by Molineux.
He also used the opportunity to show movies made by lionhead testers (several zombie movies and one homoerotic production), and stressed the quality of the movies mad by people with no formal education in the area. Apparently, some movies festivals will accept submissions of short films made with the game.
Black & White 2 had a more discreet presentation, where the emphasis was more on the morphable gameplay that allows the player to change his play style from RTS to god-game.
By the end, there was a round of questions from people in the audience. Someone asked if The Movies could be used in schools, to which Molineux said that "it would be nice". I agree. In act, as in many games, there is an unexpected educational value in The Movies.
During the questions, "The Room", Emily Dickinson's based game presented by Molineux at the last GDC was running in the background. When asked by someone what was that, Molineux said that he wouldn't say much about it, but told people to "not expect the obvious" from games and game design.
Finally, Molineux said that he is a great believer in modding and in the use of game as creative tools. Plus, according to him, the player has to have immediate feedback on his actions.
It was a very interesting session, and I was glad that creative play is being taken this seriously by the most successful game designers around.