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EA Aiming For 50% Innovation 108

Posted by Zonk
from the i-half-care dept.
Talking to 'The Street.com' EA Worldwide Studios president Paul Lee gets grilled on game delays and industry stagnation, and reaffirms EA's commitment to new IP. From the article: "There [have] been countless games in our industry that have looked great and didn't play particularly well. Going forward, there's going to be a lot of me-too products that look great -- because they all look great -- that aren't necessarily going to do great. But if you take a look at what we have -- you know, Spore is innovative game-play, and at the same time it's got great graphics. And I think that's what really knocks it out of the park. Innovative game-play helps drive [the cause] of gaming. And if you can do that, and you can have great graphics, I think that the market is bigger than just having one of the two."
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EA Aiming For 50% Innovation

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  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Friday May 19, 2006 @02:56PM (#15367747) Homepage Journal
    but when I RTFA I found he mostly talked about how he was sinking a lot of resources into Sony and Microsoft, which means they may have missed the boat since all of my peeps are buying the Wii when it comes out.

    It's the games. Seriously, I don't care how the investors think about it. I was looking at investing in EA or Nintendo, but after reading this I just don't think they get it and will miss the wave that will dominate gaming for the next two years.

    I'll still buy Spore and other Will Wright projects, of course.
    • FUR (Score:3, Insightful)

      How can the game be even an evolution simulation while leaving out the possibility of fur. From what we've seen so far they seemed to have left out any possibility of creating MAMMALS of any kind. No live birth (only eggs), no hair, no mammary glands.

      If I can't evolve my creature to look like any REAL creature as well as imaginary, then what's the point of giving me constrained freedom. If I can't evolve a mouse into an ape into a human, then why play an evolving game.

      Seriously, the scale bump mapping looks
      • ...no mammary glands.

        So much for Spore:Dead or Alive!
      • Mammary glands will turn this game from a "T for teen" to an "M for mature". Not saying it's right; that's just what's going to happen.
      • good point. My guess would be the only creatures they're demoing are furless for one and only two reasons - um, wait it's three - ok, here goes:

        1. fur is added later in design and uses a lot of graphics, so they don't want to demo that part until it works well.

        2. mammary glands and shape alterations between male/female imply having two basic X/Y paths for the biomorph, plus are probably also later in the graphics design schedule. Again, they don't want to demo such things until they work well, is my gues
      • by toad3k (882007)
        Every design change tacks x amount of time onto the release. Its like hey, lets spend four months coding fur and birth into this game.

        The game is at this point a month late and then Will Wright has to explain himself after CNN plays a video of a hairy 10 legged creature giving birth out of a vagina some idiot placed on its forehead.
      • They had to leave something for the expansion packs.
      • by PromANJ (852419)
        The real question is, can you do bouncing tits? On a more serious note... no wait, I was serious about the tits! Anyways, I don't think it's an evolution game in the sense that you have natural selection and genetic mutations going on automatically. It's more of an ID game, no?
      • They call "Spore" innovative, and /. laps it up? Come on... this is EA. It shouldn't shock anyone that the premise was done 13 years ago. It was called "EVO - The Search for Eden"
    • all of my peeps are buying the Wii

      Your pieces of marshmallow Easter candy buy video game systems? Those must be some talented sugar morsels.
    • It's not the games (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      but when I RTFA I found he mostly talked about how he was sinking a lot of resources into Sony and Microsoft,

      What EA's core competency really is, is that they turned software from a high-tech endeavour to a manufacturing practice - and run their software manufacturing plants in much the same way that apparel and auto makers run their manufacturing plants.

      By taking this approach, EA can make more cames for the same investment - and even if they're not the best games, they're good enough for many people

      • In the end, games primarily provide entertainment . If it's not novel or new, it eventually gets relegated to second tier things- things you do to while the time away and have nothing better to do.

        For them to keep moving forward, they have to have people want to have their games and to schedule part of their time for them. I just don't see the bulk of the stuff EA's producing of late doing that for the most part. I mean, how many more NFL/NHL/NBA 200x games are people going to be willing to keep plunk
        • The answer is, "every year" why? because when you buy NFL 2007 you'll get to play Reggie Bush as a New Orlands Saint. Which you can't do on NFL 2006. Even if NOTHING about the game changes, the fact that the personnel will change each year makes people plop down $50 for it. If they simply offered a $50 a year service to update their game with new players on the right teams each year, 99% of the sports gaming market would buy the service and stop buying new games.

          Ira
    • It's the games

      Yes, it is the games. Which is why I find it odd that you put so much of a focus on the console itself. ("all of my peeps are buying the Wii when it comes out")

      If it's the games, then the console doesn't matter, right? People will buy the console that has the most games they want (which is how it should be), and if EA is heavily supporting Sony and MS, and tons of people buy EA games...

      • But the reason people want to buy the Wii is that when they look at all the demos and announced games for it, and how they can be used, they lose interest in the PS3 quickly.

        At first, I thought I'd probably end up with a PS3. Then I read the list of games and read about them - and I thought I might want to get both. Then I saw and followed the E3 coverage and the pricing - and I decided I'm buying the Wii first and will wait quite a while before I'll think of buying the PS3.

        The 360s been out for a while,
        • I saw a couple of demo's for Wii, and I'm not really all that impressed with it. It's not like Nintendo is creating any new type of games. They are all the same games. It's still a Zelda game, a Mario game, a FPS, or whatever. The only thing that is really different is how you interact with the game. That just doesn't as innovative as everyone wants to make it out to be. Perhaps after it's been out for a while, someone will think up something clever, but for right now, Nintendo isn't doing much differ
      • No! It isn't the games! Nintendo isn't about games. They discovered that you can't make games new and original and appealing to everyone unless you make a magic wand for them to wave around. *rolls eyes*
  • by BitterAndDrunk (799378) on Friday May 19, 2006 @02:57PM (#15367755) Homepage Journal
    Right. Spore's a megahit. Oops, it's not out yet.

    And it has a very great danger of doing a whole bunch of stuff Not Very Well. Sort of reminds me of City of Heroes, in everything I've seen about it - great costume designer (creature creator) but the gameplay doesn't live up to it.

    Naturally, this speculation isn't that valid as I haven't played it either. But I'm not asserting it's "knocking it out of the park" or even that it will fail. I am simply skeptical that it's going to be the Only Game I Ever Play because of all the uniquely combined elements.

    • Remember though that Spore, be it good or bad, will most likely come to the Wii. Will Wright seems to really like the Wii and has mentioned he wants to take Spore to just about any platform he can shoehorn it onto. (I believe he even mentioned Cell phones... ack!)

      DS and Wii versions of spore seem to make more sense to me than PS3 and 360 versions anyway, since the controller can act more like just like a pointing device.

      Keeping that mindset, Will Wright could be one of EA's most valuable assets when it co
      • That was the first "oh shit" moment with Spore for me - when Will Wright was talking about the cell phone port as well.
        Hopefully that means just one phase or something. . . like the "spore" phase.

        But the idea that a Cell phone's limited interface will allow it to play the same game as a PC. . . just indicates it's not going to be that good.

        Or, alternately, that Will Wright has succumbed to Molynieuxism and is over-promising. Which seems likely. . . but what parts are being overpromised? THAT'S what co

        • And I'm mildly amused I was modded to oblivion for a "spore might suck" sort of comment.

          Well, Spore MIGHT suck. But it might also be the breath of fresh air that the gaming industry needs. It might also spark the pathway for a whole slew of Real Time Strategy Games on the Wii when people realize exactly how well suited the controller is for those sorts of games.

          I'm going to buy Spore for sure. I do this knowing good and well that it's a "Sandbox" sort of game in the same way Sim City is. This helps make
          • re: moderation and the like - the whole point of my post was it was an unknown and shouldn't be treated like a definite (as the article did) but because the subject matter was negativity towards Spore, poof goes the post. :) (oh and maybe the CoH jab bugged somebody)

            The first time I saw the Spore hype I was completely estatic. It looked AWESOME. I still think it looks AWESOME. There's a very high likelihood I'm going to get it, but I am beginning to feel skeptical. It feels too much like the Black and Whit

            • I just feel like RTS/FPS is really (pardon the marketroid term) thinking inside the box.

              I agree, but just because a game is classified as either an RTS or FPS doesn't mean it has to fit every traditional mold.

              There are plenty of ways to bring new ideas to old gameplay styles.

              And of course who said that old ideas can't be reimplimented with new gameplay styles?

              As a wannabe game designer, I always invision new ideas. For instance, why can't there be a Real Time Strategy Game where you play as a neutral third
            • Here's to getting a Wii and (probably!) Spore! *clinky clinky cheers-type sound*

              I'm with you there. It looks like all the sweet games will be on the Wii, and Will Wright likes to port to other boxen, so we can expect a Wii port at the very least.
            • Re:well yes (Score:2, Informative)

              by e1618978 (598967)
              Here is one you will like:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeon_Keeper [wikipedia.org]

              I played the demo years ago - you play the guy who owns
              a dungeon, and heros try to come in and take your gold.
              • I liked it a lot. I even liked the newest of its ilk, Evil Genius. A little too much actually. Nearly had a breakup w/the girl because of it.
        • One possibility- you keep spore running on your computer (perhaps as a background process) and the phone version allows you to log into your computer and play certain aspects of the game. Might be doable that way.
        • That was the first "oh shit" moment with Spore for me - when Will Wright was talking about the cell phone port as well.
          Hopefully that means just one phase or something. . . like the "spore" phase.

          But the idea that a Cell phone's limited interface will allow it to play the same game as a PC. . . just indicates it's not going to be that good.


          He means like how they have Sims 2 for the PS2 and PSP and also on some cell phone game thing.

          It's kind of like the old Animal Crossing for the Gamecube lets you play a d
          • Remember, they were talking to the marketing droid side, not the Will Wright side.

            Hells yeah. I was watching the Spore E3 demo recording [google.com], and noticed that the game internals organizes the different creatures you encountered in "trading card" format (called the Sporepedia)...

            Given the Sim City already made the jump a few years ago to collectable card game [sjgames.com], I can see that Will may be positioning Spore to do the same from the start. Spore (the Card Game) is going to be better suited to compete with Pokemon a
        • Or, alternately, that Will Wright has succumbed to Molynieuxism and is over-promising. Which seems likely. . . but what parts are being overpromised?

          Well if, Simsville (the product combining elements of the Sims with those of SimCity that was supposedly well on its way -- before it was cancelled) is any indication, it could be that the overpromising is on the idea that the game will ever be delivered. I mean, I'm a huge fan of both the SimCity and The Sims lines, and Spore looks like it could be great,

      • by monopole (44023) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:11PM (#15368348)
        As will all future releases by him.

        It's very simple, he appeared on the cover of Wired.

        Push technology, SEGA, Smell-o-Vision over IP, the New Economy, Newt Gingritch, all cratered after appearing on the cover of Wired. It's sort of a Karmic slashdotting effect.
        • Concerning that Will Wright's previous games were brillent smash hits,
          I seriously doubt that Spore will suck. In fact, the few games that he did do which werent well received were still a hell of a lot better then your average game designer. (Looking at Wikipedia, SimAnt and SimCopter come to mind)

          Sure, Wired has put some inane stuff on but that's the risk you take if you try to predict the future all the time.

          Ben
        • Push technology didn't crater, it was reincarnated as RSS.
    • No Doubt... Spore sounds impressive, looks impressive, but the question is will it actually be fun? I'm foaming at the mouth over it, but who knows it could be released as a bug ridden piece of crap. Black & White anyone? That sounded pretty cool to me too... too bad it failed in what it's goal was (so sayeth me anyways :D) Nobody knows if it will sell well until... well.. it sells well.
  • by bluemeep (669505) <bluemeep@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:01PM (#15367795) Homepage
    One of the things that we're betting on is ... more and more of the [next-generation] games are going to need some form of open-world game-play. And the reality is that open-world game play is just a much more significant undertaking than we would have imagined. But to rush it out and not get that right doesn't get you the learning you need. And I think we made the right decision to do that with Godfather, and I think the reviews and the product sales show that. We are pushing the envelope.

    It sounds to me like the basic premise for their 'innovations' is that they plan on tacking GTA-style emergent gameplay onto ever title they can. Granted, it's a nice touch in certain titles but for God's sake, don't just shove it into games where it has no purpose. Going from one marketing gimmick (yearly sequels) to another (go wherever, do whatever) just because your original tactic is failing miserably doesn't make you save any face in my book.

    • Sure, you laugh at it now, but just wait until you see Tiger Woods 2008 -- Not only will you be able to play golf, you can head into the clubhouse for a few drinks after, pick up hookers, and then walk through the parking lot smashing the windows of your competitor's cars.

      That's not all though. If you beat the entire game on the hardest level you get to drive an M1A2 Abrams Tank as a golf cart.

      Now that's innovation!

      • Sure, you laugh at it now, but just wait until you see Tiger Woods 2008 -- Not only will you be able to play golf, you can head into the clubhouse for a few drinks after, pick up hookers, and then walk through the parking lot smashing the windows of your competitor's cars.

        That's not all though. If you beat the entire game on the hardest level you get to drive an M1A2 Abrams Tank as a golf cart.

        Now that's innovation!


        Sadly, you suggestions seem like a lot of fun.
    • Ah, Sporedden 2008. "Evolve your own football team!"
  • Title is bizarre (Score:4, Informative)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:03PM (#15367818)
    "50% Innovation"? Sure, the part you quote talks about wanting to have both innovative gameplay and great graphics (what do you expect he'd say? We want to have great gameplay and lame graphics, or great graphics and lame gameplay?), but 50% suggests a quantification that just isn't in the article. Or was the "50% innocation" based on the 50% owned-vs.-licensed IP in TFA, viz (from the second page [thestreet.com]):

    EA seems to be placing more and more emphasis on developing its own content, as opposed to licensing it from other content owners. Do you have any targets on what percentage of your business you want owned IP [intellectual property] to be?

    Our goal is to get over 50%.

  • A bump to 75% innovation would be nice for the market and allow them to keep Madden ;)

    This is almost as good as naming a directory '-rf'.
    • They are actually innovating for the Wii version of Madden. That thing must be damn powerful if it can make EA do that.
  • by rjung2k (576317) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:06PM (#15367837) Homepage
    What will they think of next!

    "Johnson, you're not innovating enough! You gotta get your innovation up another 8% by the end of the month, or I'm kicking you back down to playtesting!"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    subject said it all. i loved that game and would love to pay $60 for the chance to pass the experience on to my own son. ea: don't let this 'innovation' stuff go to your heads.
  • by Fred Or Alive (738779) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:06PM (#15367847)
    Burst into laughter when they read the headline? Thought not.

    It's not just seeing "EA" and "innovation" in the same sentence, it's the fact they seem to be aiming for a specific percentage of "innovation" in their games. It all seems very accountanty.

    Developer: I've got this great new idea for our game! It'll be revolutionary!
    Boss: Sorry, I'm not sure if we've got enough innovation left in our budget for revolutionary, can you scale it down to a neat twist on an existing idea?
    • Burst into laughter when they read the headline? Thought not.
      Well, yeah, and then I RTFA and found out, yeah, it was just a bad headline.
    • Actually it was a different part of the headline that got me. Someone at some stage of the chain has really made a cock of themselves with that 50% figure.

      Paul Lee himself probably only said it as a ballpark indication that he want to innovate, and it isn't the title of the article, so maybe Zonk is the culprit.

      Do you have any targets on what percentage of your business you want owned IP [intellectual property] to be?

      Our goal is to get over 50%

      Maybe it's the easiest way to express this for the headline, but

  • "EA aiming for 50% of the games they put their name on, but don't develop themselves, to be innovative." I guess it doesn't roll off the tongue as well.
    • "EA aiming for 50% of the games they put their name on, but don't develop themselves, to be innovative."

      It's not internal versus external. It's licensed properties versus original properties. Licensed means paying a lot of money for the videogame rights to an existing media property, such as Lord of the Rings. They develop both licensed and original games internally.
  • A lot of people are casual gamers or weren't raised on PS2/Xbox and have problems with the controls. Maybe they ought to consider things like autoaim that Quake had for FPS and action games so you don't have to work 2 thumbsticks to aim... Of course that would require them to compensate by making the AI more difficult.
    • More than that

      1)A lot of people get severe motion sickness in first person perspective. For example, myself. If a game is first person only, I won't buy it because I can't play it.

      2)Where are all the 2D games at? 3D works for some genres, but platformers I still prefer in 2D. RPGs as well- by going 3D instead of 2D you might get more details in, but the worlds seem to be 1 hell of a lot smaller- there were more towns and dungeons in FF1 than FFX.
  • by szembek (948327)
    But if you take a look at what we have -- you know, Spore is innovative game-play, and at the same time it's got great graphics.

    who wrote this crap? Maybe it's just this headache I have but this article seemed practically unreadable.
  • How exactly do they plan on innovating with their next 40 installments of Madden and NCAA Football? Seriously, EA is the king of beat a dead horse. I think this is the first time I've actually seen EA and innovation in the same sentence.
    • I think this is the first time I've actually seen EA and innovation in the same sentence.


      When EA started they were great. Anyone else here remember M.U.L.E??

      http://atarimule.neotechgaming.com/ [neotechgaming.com]
    • I think sports games are, in a way, harder to innovate than other genres. That's because you're essentially boxed in to how the sport works and handles itself. You can't really change the rules, too much, without people complaining about how unrealistic it is. (Then again, some people LIKE that, which is why games like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz have a sizeable fanbase) That, and you HAVE to release a new version each year. I don't see any other franchise where this has to happen (imagine a new FF or MGS or Halo
      • I think sports games are, in a way, harder to innovate than other genres. That's because you're essentially boxed in to how the sport works and handles itself. You can't really change the rules, too much, without people complaining about how unrealistic it is. (Then again, some people LIKE that, which is why games like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz have a sizeable fanbase) That, and you HAVE to release a new version each year.

        You have to update data files (rosters, etc.) each year, or even more frequently. Excep

        • You have to update data files (rosters, etc.) each year, or even more frequently. Except for the limitations of console formats where you couldn't expect much in the way of being able to apply updaets, there is no reason why that has to mean a new game release -- it could just be a nominally priced, or even free, downloadable product.

          I believe the latest sports titles, at least the ones on Xbox, do allow you to update the rosters mid-season, to take advantage of all the free agency/trading action that happ

      • Personally, I have found some innovative sports games. for example, the Mario sports series (Mario Strikers, Mario all-star baseball) is alot of fun. First off, because you KNOW they aren't real people you are simulating, you don't really care about who's team they are on or whether they really retired (A-Rod a Mariner? when was that!!!) they can be flexible with rosters. plus, since its a bit cartoonish, they can play with the rules a bit. (monsters down the first and third base lines that will attack
        • I agree that those non-simulation sports games (the Mario-line, NFL Blitz, NBA Live, Street games, etc.) can be a lot of fun. But they're almost a different genre itself. One reason why the Mario titles do pretty well is because they DON'T have to release a new one every year. We see one being developed once every few years, usually aligning with a console generation. I think that's perfect, since it allows time for true innovation to occur. What we see happening with the Wii Sports lineup is a great exampl
  • I can see it now, EA's new committment to innovation will result in a revolutionary new option in NHL 2007: the ability to skip the hockey and jump straight to the fights.
    • Sure there's a game going on that you want to win, but you don't have to spend all your time on the "main quest". In fact, some people may choose never to finish the game. Instead of scoring and defending, get mini-quests from fans and do them! Do karaoke at center ice! Wander out of the stadium and interact with real people online! Build a tree-house out of hockey sticks! End sentences with exclamation marks!
  • by spyrochaete (707033) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:25PM (#15367992) Homepage Journal
    Look forward to the following titles this year!
    • American Mcgee's NHL 2007
    • Madden 007 2007: Goldenpunt
    • Lord Of the Sims: Hobbit Date
    • Harry Potter and the Milking of Franchise
    • Need for Medal of Honor: Third Reich Racing
    • The Burbz: Virtual Emo
    • Burnout Soviet Russia: Cars Blow Up You!
    • Lord of the Rings: Street
    • Command and Conquer: Dubya vs. Everybody
    And of course,
    • Unskippable EA Logo Challenge 2007
  • by jferris (908786) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:32PM (#15368049) Homepage
    ...just a half-assed attempt at being completely innovative.
    Half empty, half full - ad naseum.
  • What's 50% innovation? Are they just going to release a new football game where the players have capes?
  • It lies in the system, the fact of the matter is that when you think about artistic ideas and gameplay and consider it as merely IP; something merely attainable by investment, you've been mistaken. You can't "invest" in creating a masterpiece, you need insight and artistic individuals. It doesn't take much to make "IP", and it doesn't cost much either. All it costs is intelligence to write a good story or plan a good game, and if you don't have that, then well, fuck you.
  • Hmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Cyno01 (573917) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @05:22PM (#15368925) Homepage
    .50*0=?
  • I don't think innovation will come from one of the big game developers. It will come from the small niche / indie game market. Why don't EA games try to stimulate that by doing things like popcap did with publishing their open source framework that allows anyone to reduce some of the effort that accompanies building games. I just finished a small game based on this framework and its fun to build and to play. How much inhouse frameworks/tools does EA have? If you want innovation you need to create the possib
  • ...when current innovation is 0.
  • Hm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by darkhitman (939662)
    Maybe they should readjust their numbers.

    Like, why 50%? We don't need that much. They could cut it down to, say, 38.3% Innovation, 90% profit whoring.

    Note: The discrepancy in the numbers is best explain by the same math that convinces EA they make a profit.
  • New properties != Innovation!

    It'd be nice if EA actually backed some new ideas besides those by Will Wright (apparently the only employee of the company to retain his soul). But because the company, back in their 8-bit computer days, were the publishers of so many wonderful creations, I have to rate the company as having a net deficit in the wonder-and-goodness department until they at least get back to that level.

    Electronic Arts was hot stuff once. I doubt we'll ever see it at that level again.

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