‘Fable’ co-creator criticises “homogenous” design in modern AAA games

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Dene Carter, the veteran developer and co-creator of the Fable series and Dungeon Keeper, is not thrilled by the state of modern AAA game design.

Carter took to his Twitter account yesterday (July 23), prompted by an indie developer, to give his opinion on design in modern games.

“I think we’re in a dangerous place. We’ve created a massive library of ‘best practices’ and ‘design methodologies’ and ‘interface standards’ that have made everything in AAA smooth and homogenous,” he began before summarising it in one word: “Yuck.”

The developer continued lambasting the current industry for “engagement metrics for ‘how often enemy encounters should appear’, ‘how high your character should jump relative to his size’, ‘how far the player should be able to see’, ‘how long missions should last’, ‘how often characters should talk’ etc.”

Most pointedly, he compared the modern AAA games with the formula of Hollywood movies, referring to the Save The Cat screenwriting books, with minute-by-minute guides that some have criticised for allegedly leading to more formulaic screenplays.

In terms of film, he reserved his biggest criticism for the Marvel movies, calling them “vacuous, tedious, formulaic nonsense that has sucked all the air out of the entire industry … And yet *these* are our aspirational media.”

“I rarely see a AAA game now where I say: “Ooh! I wonder what the hell that’s all about!” And that’s by design,” Carter continued. “You’re not supposed to wonder. You’re supposed to know. It’s the value-proposition. If you don’t already know how it’s going to play the marketing has ‘failed’.”

Carter’s last major game in the AAA space was Fable III in 2010 before he left Lionhead Studios to become an indie developer, currently working as a one-person studio under the name Fluttermind. He also served as a writer on the 2020 twin-stick cover shooter West Of Dead.

The developer nonetheless ended his thread on a more positive note, believing that “the appetite for warm sewage *is* diminishing” and urging for the industry to bring more women into games, which would be “more transformative than any number of polygons.”

While he was lukewarm about next-gen hardware’s ability to revolutionise the industry “except the ability to use movie studios’ raw CG assets and pretend that is a ‘good thing’ for everyone”, he nonetheless is encouraged by new toolsets “enabling super-small teams to create weird, beautiful stuff that shines and shows this amazing interactive medium for the starburst of innovation it always has been.”

“Hire people from theatre. Hire puppeteers. Hire boardgame nerds. Hire romance novelists. Hire people who aren’t like you. Make games a source of delight and wonder and *the unexpected*.”

Elsewhere, Bungie has set out a no tolerance policy following the lawsuit made against Activision Blizzard alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse in the workplace.

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