Are games insensibly dwindling to the status of glorified films with a few, token interactive moments, warming over a small handful of inherited concepts? Are scripted experiences more sellable than those which evolve in response to player choice? Dishonored co-director Harvey Smith doesn't think so. He's an optimist.
"My friend Clint Hocking, who worked on Far Cry 2, was worried at a point that we were going to market with these games that are highly interactive, and other people were going to market with games that are highly scripted and cinematic, and wouldn't it be terrible if the scripted games always won out?" the Arkane Studios man told GamesIndustry.biz in an interview at Gamescom.
"Wouldn't that evolutionarily take the business in a direction that was less healthy... There might be a point of no return."
"But some of the most popular experiences in the world today are multiplayer death-match modes where every entity in the world is a human making decisions," he went on. "Or Minecraft, where every square foot of the world is interactive.
"I've watched kids play Minecraft, and I believe Minecraft is The Beatles to the current generation of kids. They don't want the scripted cinematic experience; they want to tear the universe apart block-by-block. It turns out that all of those turn-of-the-millennium executives in videogames were wrong."
Elsewhere, Smith aired his view that the games industry is riding out a period of imaginative stagnancy, brought about by the decline of a hardware generation. "How many games have been released now where you're a soldier, or a space marine, or you're surrounded by elves and wizards, or you're robbing a bank in L.A.?
"I'm still an optimist, and I still have a great time playing games, but the truth is I play two AAA games a year, I probably really enjoy two indie games a year, maybe a couple of mobile games a year, because most stuff is just variations on things we've seen before. If you've been around a while you've seen it over and over and over."
Arkane is looking to correct much of this with Dishonored, a first-person stealth-action game which allows for multiple, esoteric solutions to any given problem, set in a greasy dysfunctional riff on industrial Britain. I've had a lot of fun with it so far, despite dying constantly.