Today was the Keynote by Shigeru Miyamoto who has created countless video games and video game characters for Nintendo. His keynote primarily focused on the creative vision that both he and Nintendo have and how they coincide.
His concerns seem to be ones replicated by other developers in many different fields of game development, sales may be up but the reputation of the game industry is suffering and the industry has fallen into a cycle less concerned with innovation and more to do with iteration.
He talked about many pieces of Nintendo's vision, their commitment to expanding their audience, their devotion to the entertainment business, and their willingness to take risks. Miyamoto joked he had a way of judging the success of a game using what he called the 'wife-o-meter' which measures the interest of his own wife in a game. He talked about the progression of getting his wife involved in games and the ideas he incorporated to ease his wife into gaming that occurred over the designs of games like The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, Animal Crossing and Wii Sports.
He also talked about how the balance in Nintendo that occurred where everyone provided input when it come to building the Wii controller and the concerns of the many teams to helped to build it. Apparently, there were three primary teams that provided input: a team who experimented with new gamplay designs, the zelda team who wanted to make sure more traditional styles of games would still be possible, and a team concerned with making sure the new controller would be accessible to third parties so they could make games as well.
He also talked about the risks involved with many design choices they'd made over the years with the Nintendo DS's touch screen, the Gamecube's larger differently colored A button, the idea to go with a one handed controller for the Wii. Miyamoto said that every so often he ended up "upending the tea table" to test a new idea or take a chance and that while people might be nervous, you needed to not look at what you might lose but what you might gain.
Miyamoto also discussed his own design process where he focused on how to get the player to smile and have fun as the goal for any gameplay experience. He emphasized the points of communication, prioritization and tenacity in his speech. Especially interesting was how he discussed how the idea of player created avatars evolved over time into what we have today in Miis on the Wii. It took attempts on the NES disk drive, the N64's disk drive, and the Gamecube before the idea was full realized the way we see on the Wii and even then it evolved out of a project that originally started on the DS.
Miyamoto also took the time to show a Super Mario Galaxy trailer and talk about a new Wii channel he's working on where people will be able to submit their Miis and everyone will be able to vote on which are the best.
It's always interesting to hear Miyamoto's words because he has a such a pure view of game design. You could tell he was trying to get people to realize that innovation doesn't just need to happen in graphics but in the way you manipulate the players during the game. What do you guys think about Miyamoto? Would you rather have more simpler gameplay experiences or more complex deeper experiences that might not be as accessible? Do you enjoy the feeling of being able to share a communal game experience?
Innovation is definitely key and is also definitely missing from many major developers these days. Indie developers, though they often put out "clones" of other games, still offer very creative content to a game that can take the place of true innovation. But the major players tend to just redo the same old thing and it is getting more and more boring for gamers.
Depending on the game and how I'm feeling at the time, I could want to play a simple game or a complex game. It just depends. Too complex (one of the Pearl Harbor games was rediculously complex) isn't good, but I don't mind complexity if I have time to play and am not tired. If I just want a nice quick, relaxing game, I'll go for the simple games -- games where you can play 10-15 minutes and be done without really having to concentrate on what you're doing.
As for "communal" game experiences... again, it depends. I don't play many games online because I don't really like playing very many competitive games against other people. Most of those games can be mastered by people who play them regularly (especially FPS games, but even RTS games). As I play occasionally, I end up trying to play against someone who can do everything 5x as fast because of experience. It takes away the fun of the game. On the otherhand, games where you don't really compete (WoW without PvP interaction, for example) are great. They let me enjoy playing a game with other people with shared goals and no matter how good the other players are, I'm not getting smashed by them.
Just as an example, I used to play Starcraft with people online. Eventually, I stopped because so many people were so fast that they could rush you in minutes and wipe you out if you weren't as good at building up quickly. Because I didn't play often, I never got that fast at it, so it was usually a guaranteed loss. Besides, games like that should have actual strategy... build up your armies and then fight... not built 10-15 zerglings and rush your opponent and defeat him/her in 5 minutes.
That's just me, of course. I am not that competitive to begin with. I prefer playing games for fun and not trying to defeat everyone around me.