Less Talk, More Rock

The native language of video games
is neither spoken nor written

By superbrothers • Presented by Brandon Boyer

Not too long ago, Jordan Mechner and Eric Chahi were chatting with Eric Viennot, a French creator and writer. Jordan Mechner single-handedly pioneered a type of cinematic videogame with Karateka in 1984 and Prince of Persia in 1989. Eric Chahi similarly single-handedly created 1991's Another World -- known in the U.S. as Out of this World -- a painterly cinematic videogame in a similar tradition.

Jordan Mechner had the following advice to share, I think it's great advice. He was talking about the creative process, and he described it this way:

A project starts with an idea, a vision, something that is hard to define, something kind of magic and amazing. This is step 1. This is gold. This is beautiful. You can't yet see the details, but you have a sense for thing you want to make, and hopefully you're swept away by it.

Usually in the creative process, the next step -- step 2 -- is to think about the project intellectually, to talk about it, to look at it from various angles, to plan it out, maybe to second guess it or to problem solve it, maybe reconsider it a bit. This is the talk.

The next step, step 3, is to actually make this thing, to get down to it. This is the rock. And we like to think that the process goes from 1 to 2 to 3.

The trouble is that step 2 can get a little serious, particularly if it's a collaborative project. There's a lot of talk. A lot of planning and revising. Maybe some doubt. Maybe some deviations from the beauty and clarity of step one.

I was in the industry for a few years, and step 2 is a big deal there. Committees and middle-management and shareholders are all talk. Everyone wants to talk. Eventually, maybe it's all just talk, there's nothing left.

And maybe that's where it ends. Maybe you get lost in all that talk -- all that intellectualizing, all that 'what if?', all those numbers and sales projections or what-have-you, all that self-doubt -- and you lose your way. Maybe you never even get to step three. Or maybe whatever survives has none of the inspiration of step 1: it has been diluted, compromised, transformed.

That's why Jordan Mechner's advice -- and it's so beautiful -- is to proceed from 1 to 3 to 2. Go right from the inspiration -- the vision -- to actually making it. Don't think it through. Don't talk about it. Don't plan it. Dive in and start making it happen. If you do that -- if you can start rocking -- you'll get some momentum, and when you have some momentum then the project has a chance, because now you're into it. It's going somewhere, it's tangible. Sure, you'll still run up against problems to solve and decisions to make, but you'll approach these in the moment and solve them in the moment. You'll solve them so you can keep moving.

Of course, if you're in a situation where you can't just go from 1 to 3 to 2 -- if you're all bound up in structures and processes -- get out. Get around it. Do something.

The take-away here is: rock before talking. These are words to live by, something I aspire to, and something that rockstars like Cactus and Messhof are demonstrating every other day before breakfast.

Ok now, I just want to talk for a minute about Moses. He's an alright guy, he's cool.

This guy, he comes down from the mountain a few thousand years ago and he has these stone tablets, and on them is the alphabet. And it's great! People go nuts for it: it's only 26 characters, easy to learn, everybody jumps on it. It's awesome. We all love it.

We end up printing this stuff on paper and in books and it's catching on, and pretty soon it's all over. Now it's the basis for our laws, our stories, our beliefs, our civilization. The alphabet. Alphabet literacy. It kicks ass. Seriously, I love it. Books are cool.

But let's just take a quick second and take a look at what's going on with this. Above is a picture of a dude, and to his right is the word written with the alphabet, it says 'dude'. These two things are perceived totally differently by your mind.

When you read the word 'dude', your eye is shooting along from left to right, and you're interpreting these characters that look like nothing and mean nothing and you're perceiving this word that has all these different meanings that you remember and you're thinking about right now.

When you look at a picture of this dude, you're seeing the shape, and your eye is hitting it on all sides, looking at details, seeing the whole thing, nonverbally reflecting on it. You're kind of half-remembering images like this and the vaguely emotional associations and echoes that go with them.

This picture isn't speaking to your intellect, it's engaging the older mind, the one that is always looking for patterns and associations.

I'm suggesting that the written word -- and to some extent the spoken word -- is speaking to your intellect. Your intellect has a relationship to the whole mind, for sure, but it's a little bit apart, it's kind of its own thing. It's a great thing, but it's kind of its own thing. Meanwhile, images, sounds, music, patterns, motion -- these things are speaking directly to your whole mind, often without troubling the intellect.

Here's a phrase. It reads 'a joyful reunion'. We're drawing on our memory banks, we're creating images to match it, it's an intellectual exercise. It's a good thing, it's cool.

Here's an image. It's another 'joyful reunion'. It's doing something different in our minds. Add a little music overtop of this and you've got something really cool going on. All kinds of feelings and associations. This type of thing can be seriously powerful. This type of thing can cast a spell. Just let it work on you for a second or two.

The take-away here? Talk is good. Written and spoken communication is a beautiful thing in and of itself. However, with videogames -- a primarily audiovisual style of communication -- talk can be disruptive, it can undermine. In this context, talk is noise.

Remember when Miyamoto made that videogame about those plumbers? The real revolution with that videogame was in the style of communication. It was a tremendous leap forward in how articulate synesthetic audiovisual could be. Coins looked like they sounded and they sounded the way they behaved in the context of the mechanics. Each element -- the brick, the turtle, the pipe -- was a well-formed, understandable audiovisual videogame unit.

That's the genius of this thing. It didn't need to talk much at all, it was pure rock. This was the native language of videogames: synesthetic audiovisual expressing a meaning, where sound and image and logic come together and feel right, where the communication is nonverbal but nonetheless articulate, where you understand what's going on the same way you 'get' the communication of a song, the same way you can be blown away by a painting or a piece of sculpture.

"It is dangerous to go alone." Here's another one from back in the day by Miyamoto, it had you poking around this place called Hyrule. This one had little bit of talk -- a sprinkling of dialogue, a bit of a story. And that's fine, because a little bit of talk is ok, so long as there is proportionally more rock going on, so long as the bulk of the experience is communicated in the native language of videogames with as little disuption as possible.

Actually when there's just a little bit of talk like this it has a peculiar, haunting, poetic effect. It tickles the intellect just enough for it to stir, but not enough to irritate it. I should say I don't love this videogame so much, but I love what it represents, and I think there are still lessons to be learned from it.

Have you played Ico? Fumito Ueda, creator of Ico, seems to be descended from Chahi, Mechner and old school Miyamoto. Some find the underlying videogame to be a little dull, but most are swept away by it, enchanted. It casts a spell and if you've seen it through to the end you know it's delicious. It speaks videogame fluently, it is audiovisually articulate.

We know the characters by how they move, we know the world by how it looks/sounds/feels. It does not talk. It does not need to. It rocks. What there is to understand is made clear audiovisually, so the intellect is free to reflect, to dream, to pursue tangential thoughts, to roam. This type of spell-binding talk-free experience, a little like Chahi's Another World, might just stick with you for some time to come.

Meanwhile, our modern day Hyrule videogames, well, there's a sadness here isn't there? The sadness is that the man who pioneered all this rock has allowed committees and middle managers and random stakeholders to choke these videogames with needless, often incoherent, and always disruptive talk.

Sometimes there are spaces where the old magic exists, when you are seeing things, hearing things, spotting patterns, flowing through spaces, experiencing moods and locations. But often our experiences are pierced by disruptive, dissonant elements: overlong and condescending tutorials, over-explained idiotic stories and a million other stupidities.

These kinds of things stir our intellect, forcing us to switch gears and pay attention, but what they have to offer generally isn't worthy of our attention. To me these kinds of things are repulsive, evidence of a deficient imagination or a lack of videogame literacy on the part of the creator, or simply evidence of a committee. These things break the spell, they're an invitation to quit, and they exist in 99% of the videogames I've played.

A videogame is a staggeringly beautiful canvas. It's a window into another world. A world that lives only as long as the machine is on. A living breathing world with depth and soul that actually exists, right there onscreen, limited only by the vision and imagination of its creators. Seize that thought, and don't let it go.


Lazy Jones, 1984. Metroid Prime, 2002. Rez, 2001. Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, 2008. flOwer, 2009. Everyday Shooter, 2007. Ico, 2001. Super Mario Bros., 1985. Another World, 1991. Prince of Persia, 1989. Demon's Souls, 2009.

It occurs to me that as videogame machines have evolved and become more capable, there are creators and audiences who have become accustomed to these bloated cross media confections loaded with various kinds of talk and nonsense, and consequently the primacy of the native language of videogames tends to be ignored, de-prioritized or forgotten.

An entire generation seems to have become used to experiences clogged with menus and text, spammed with awkward cutscenes, choked by voice acting, mangled by incongruent narrative, segmented by load times, stalled by informational messages.

These elements serve to undermine the aesthetic coherence of the work -- they can dilute the magic, they can interrupt the flow, they can disrupt the basic audiovisual communication, they can break the spell. In my estimation, these various forms of 'talk' are generally superfluous, and often enough they are getting in the fucking way.

So, for what it's worth, here's your final take-away: LESS TALK, MORE ROCK.

Words and art: Superbrothers. Editor: Brandon Boyer. Design: Rob Beschizza

94 Comments Add a comment

#1 12:41 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Joel Johnson

I love this whole thing so much I could spit.

#2 12:52 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Wonderful. Gorgeous art and I'll take this to heart when we start designing our next game.

#3 12:59 PM, Mar 24 Reply

This is a great point. I'm a scientist and I feel this kind of frustration every day. Creative work is easily sidelined by criticism.

#4 1:05 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Mike Nowak

Yeah, I have nothing to add but my undying love.

#5 1:11 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Tango Charlie

These ideas seem very applicable to other creative endeavours, too. Sure, the specifics and a lot of the spirit is Video Games, but still, a lot of creative folk would do well to think on this for a bit.

#6 1:18 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Chris Furniss

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go rock now.

#7 1:19 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, particularly Ico, changed my life, and I'm totally not an avid video game player; you got some gold in dis, and I'm a true follower

#8 1:29 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Shadow of the colossus should be in the list right next to Ico !
I would have added Okami too ...

#9 1:34 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Elijah Meeks

Ico really was spectacular, and the entire Metal Gear series really was godawful, and Final Fantasy, along with being a sinking battleship, has never had a story that could compare with even the pulpiest pulp of the early 20th century. I don't know that it tracks entirely to words, but the criticism of segmentation and clunky, worthless story is spot on.

#10 1:38 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Thanks for a great article. It's true it hurts. Some more examples that IMHO rock more than they talk:

- Major Havoc
- Intelligent Qube
- The Half Life series
- Uncharted 2
- Portal

#11 1:43 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Shadow of the Colossus should be on that list!

#12 2:02 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Yes, both Uncharted games are great examples. I would also add last years Infamous.

#13 2:07 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Pure gameplay is wonderful, but talk has a huge part in games that this is essentially just casting away as noise. Pacing matters, flow matters, psychological expectations matter. Talk can be used to create moments of rest, to control the emotional flow of your player. Talk itself can be a game, we are verbal creatures after all, we love storytelling, and we engage with it.

Talk is absolutely vital to pen and paper roleplaying games, it is the primary tool you have as a DM to bring the environment to life. Sure minis and battlemats help with the visualization, but the words are an integral part of the experience, choosing and using the right ones is incredibly important.

Looking at a current computer game, Mass Effect 2 is a fantastic example of the power of Talk. Sure you can say "Oh, by Rock I meant all that talking that DOES form an elegant flow of gameplay", but that just says that the message was poorly constructed and the signifier Talk was being unfairly boogeymanned. In ME2, talk creates space between the action segments, allowing you to integrate this intensely visceral moment to moment gameplay activities into a giant narrative structure that enhances the play, and in fact at points becomes a different sort of play that contrasts beautifully with the action.

So sure, let's build prototypes early and play them as soon as we can. Let's not put boring filler that blocks the player's way. But let's not miss that communicating with words is an effective element in our toolbox, one that we can apply at appropriate times.

#14 2:11 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Ironically, there's a lot of talk going on in this article. It's all talk in fact.

One minor point. Talk has a way of engaging the whole brain in wider ways than rock sometimes can. That is to say talk can be rock. Take a look at the "A joyful reunion" example. The text could be any joyful reunion and for me engaged a memory of my own joyful reunion. That picture was a single joyful reunion and nothing more. No matter how multimedia or how many emotions it engages it is a single experience and nothing more. However, it is the same experience to everyone, and maybe that's what you want.

So I agree, talk can kill rock, rock early, rock hard, rock long, but don't tell me talk has no value. And definitely don't go saying that around any IF communities.

#15 2:22 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Cormac in reply to not_kevitivity

I'd consider the Uncharted games an example of highly effective, well designed Talk (and there was a LOT of Talk involved in them making it). 90 minutes of non-interactive cinematic content and a serious commitment to making that content compelling (full-disclosure, my friend was the Cinematics Animation Lead).

#16 2:29 PM, Mar 24 Reply
God at play

Very nice. This document is basically advocating more work that appeals to the right side of the brain.

The left side of the brain is where most language comprehension occurs. It also deals with logical, sequential, and analytical thinking.

The right side of the brain reads faces, thinks holistically, intuits, understands art and music.

To put it another way: Less left-brained, More right-brained.

Our society right now is extremely left-brained biased. The games we make are naturally a result of that societal bias.

#17 3:25 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Great article - completely agree with this, especially when editing videos. Too much thinking about edits and editing can ruin it - be more spontaneous, go with your gut and you'll notice the results are much clearer and better.

#18 3:28 PM, Mar 24 Reply

So ... where do text adventures like Zork and Planetfall fit in? Is their talk ... rock?

#19 3:28 PM, Mar 24 Reply

This is AMAZING. Inspiring. True.

p.s. I skip 95% of cut scenes.

#20 3:48 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Anon in reply to Anonymous

If you think that Okami belongs here, you missed the point entirely. This is about games that rock more than talk(Okami is pretty talk heavy), this is not about your favorite hip PS2 games.

#21 4:00 PM, Mar 24 Reply

I think both the Uncharted games are fairly derivative imitations of the higher-level "Talk" you'd see in a good book or movie. That's pretty subjective though. I think it's clear that they are very far away from the parameters of "Rock," and might be the total antithesis of the design sense Superbrothers is talking about here. Infamous and Half-Life also don't fit.

I'm glad Demon's Souls gets the recognition it deserves here. They created such a coherent, amazing dark world. It's a bit depressing that so many developers are looking to Uncharted (e.g., well-executed cinematic cliches) for inspiration, rather than the much more rewarding and challenging Demon's Souls.

Also, I really love ME2, but I can't deny that talking gets in its way sometimes. I remember a friend of mine watching the first hour or so of play and saying "you call this a video game?" All you get to do for the first bit is walk across your ship and talk to Joker. So, tons of talking and the action is out of your control. Once you wake up, you're guided by Miranda's Tutorial Voice AND find audio logs AND are forced to talk to Jacob and another guy explaining your situation. There's a hugely redundant amount of information, you don't control how you explore your situation, and you are forced into longish dialogues with the game's worst characters. Not rockin', imo.

#22 4:10 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Great feature Brandonnn and Superbros. Would love to see more from both of you.

#23 4:11 PM, Mar 24 Reply

I think some of the comments are confusing the 'talk' in step two - the often onerous explanation of design to product managers, etc. and the inevitable interruption of the creative flow that this causes with actual talking as a game mechanic. There are excellent games out there with amazing pacing, etc. that utilize a lot of scripted moments with talking. In that case the 'talk' is the 'rock'.

I totally agree with this concept - especially in game design - to jump from an idea to a prototype as fast as you can so that you can prove the concept in its native audio-visual medium and not through a non-native written spec or conversation. Great essay and great visual design for the essay.

#24 4:19 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Cormac in reply to kuniklo

The Step 2 part is fine, as far as it goes (hint, it is much easier on a tiny game with few parts that can be implemented by a few people to go straight to step 3 than on a huge project that needs to coordinate and marshal the efforts of dozens or hundreds of people) but most of the latter part of the essay is a critique of Talk as in actual text/voice, hence my issues with it in my post above.

Your labeling of the 'talk' as 'rock' is in fact my exact issue with the entire end of the essay, it made for a nice sounding screed, but only because it simply abuses the words. Flow would have been a better a term, rather than trying to make a pejorative out of Talk.

#25 4:53 PM, Mar 24 Reply
DerBonk in reply to Cormac

I definitely agree. "Talk" in the second part of the essay may fit with the first part nicely, but for the sake of the argument, it may have been less ideal. What we're looking for, it seems to me, is the (audio-visual, interactive, literal) language of videogames. So a good game "[..] speaks videogame fluently [...]." "Talk" is defined as the opposite. In my opinion, this "talk" isn't necessarily words on the screen, nor are those words necessarily "talk." But there might be some disagreement here.

Still, I think this is a great, inspiring essay. Reminds me of this old idea I had a while back about the Gricean Maxims relating to game design ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gricean_maxims ). If you define playing a game as a form of communication between the player and the game, games have to adhere to these principles to adhere to the cooperative principle (to be fun).

Just a few games to add to the list:
Trials HD
Portal (seconded, because of the fantastic balance of all elements involved!)
Quake 3 Multiplayer

(btw I love the design! Reminds me that I wanted to do something similar, since I read this inspiring essay about this form of essay a while back... maybe I should start rocking ;))

#26 4:53 PM, Mar 24 Reply

You know, I understand this opinion. He's a purist: you keep different forms separated. Video games should be video games, and it should be that: interactive media art. However, my favorite art forms have always been those that tell a story or emotion. The best music is that which is emotionally powerful and gigantic in scope, and movies should blend acoustovisual elements in order to tell a great story well. Video games, especially now in an era in which they can be massive, are the newest storytelling medium, and they are interactive in a way no other medium is. A painting is all well and good, and movies are pretty awesome, and music is practically my life. But the interactive media is the best way to experience a story or emotion because you live it without the consequences of seeing your world destroyed or having to kill people. So, don't clutter games with meaningless babble, but the talk that the author blithely wishes to eliminate forms the basis of a story that I want to be a part of, instead of just a fun button-punch for a couple of hours.

#27 4:56 PM, Mar 24 Reply
Anon in reply to kuniklo

@22: I think you're doing some odd interpretation here...the manifesto as written seems to think games should have less talking/voice acting/explaining in them in general. It's a "show don't tell" argument modified with some specific guidelines for how game storytelling works. Look at the "Less Talk More Rock Hall of Fame": do any of those games have much talking in them? Especially the unskippable, non-optional kind of talking?

@23: His bias against talking doesn't jive with one of my favorite games, Planescape:Torment, but otherwise I think he's really onto something. I think video game fans are seriously delusional when they claim that game scripts are as well-paced or as polished as good film scripts; even games that are acclaimed as well-written have tons of exposition, repetition, and ham-handed scenes. Game studios often say "design first, writing second," but in practice this means that the story is clumsily filled in by a writer or two (often to excessive length) around design sections already conceived, creating a disjointed mess, instead of the whole design being aimed at telling a story. Superbrothers' ideas seem to point toward this fusion of design and story, which would be made very differently from the enormous "blockbuster" games. It's true that his guidelines don't work when you have a 200 person team or whatever, but maybe companies should stop making games that way. (Six quirky, $3 mil budget games might have better odds of making more money than a single $18 mil title, where the enormous budget is a bet on its success.)

#28 5:07 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Talk can indeed be rock, and anyone who says otherwise is silly. There's nothing inherent in words that is anathema to the medium. Someone cited Portal as an example of "less talk" above, which surprises me. That game prattles on incessantly, and is all the better for it.

The problem, more often than not, isn't words, but BAD words. It's the execution that matters.

Oh, and words can indeed engage the whole mind. That's what novels and poetry are for!

#29 5:27 PM, Mar 24 Reply

This isn't a new theory... in the words of Elvis Presley, "A little less conversation, a little more action."

#30 5:48 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Wasn't Mr. Viennot point that "step 2" can kill "step 1"? meaning...too much 'discussion/planning/analysis can kill 'inspiration' not so much a point about avoiding speech and dialogue in games?

Fumito Ueda has a really smart brain. he said he works within his limitations. he said he'd include speech, but the current level of tech doesn't do that sort of thing well...and i think he's right.

I'd say this, in defense of speech/talk in games. Believe me, i hate 99.567.65% dialog in games. Mostly, because it's so ass-poor written and creates a strange disconnect from the game and my brain.

Most games you could turn the sound off and enjoy the game with some cool ambient music. However, if you did this to PORTAL, then you would have completely changed the experience, in fact, it wasn't the gameplay that made PORTAL so brilliant, it was cool but what was happening between your ears when you heard what GLaDOS would say. The game became pure psychological joy.

So, more talk, only if, the talk makes the rock, rock with more talk...werd.

#31 7:53 PM, Mar 24 Reply

Mr. D. Adams! Your rant and Boyer's were hands down, by far my favorites. I'm thrilled you guys joined forces to bring us the Extended Edition!

2010: Less Snark, More Rock. ;)

Rock on.

#32 7:54 PM, Mar 24 Reply

(My ninjas.)

#33 8:54 PM, Mar 24 Reply


A few clarifications may be in order:

1) This wasn't really intended as manifesto, sorry if that's rubbing people the wrong way, in my head it was more 'some potentially helpful observations + an impassioned statement of intent'. Basically, it's just what I think about and it's what I aspire to do, for whatever it's worth.

2) This feature began as a hastily prepared five minute GDC 'rant', it' was a bit conversational, kinda light & friendly, so on the page it may come across a bit fast & loose. I should acknowledge that overall it probably isn't as intellectually sound or as clear as it ought to be, it may be unnecessarily obvious at other times, and then there's that one possibly unnecessary f-bomb at the end (er...), but it's heartfelt. Anyways, yeah, apologies!

3) Text & speech are valuable & useful in videogames, of that there's no doubt, so are indicators, displays & cinematics, that's all cool. My feeling is simply that there's a primordial language that is native to videogames that includes those elements but is much more deeply rooted in non-verbal forms of communication. I think this language may prove to be immensely powerful and I think it's worth considering and exploring. So yeah, my preference is for proportionally 'less talk, more rock' in a videogame, I love videogames with a highly developed audiovisual style that communicates effectively, and I generally prefer it when speech and text are used with great care and/or in moderation... but I'm certainly not advocating an extreme anti-text anti-speech position. And yes, Portal is great. So is Uncharted. Mass Effect is probably fine too. We're all friends here. :)

Should these clarifications fail to mollify, know this:

#34 4:11 AM, Mar 25 Reply

You better be trolling. All of you. Games like MGS and Final Fantasy are REAL art.

#35 8:32 AM, Mar 25 Reply


#36 8:33 AM, Mar 25 Reply
Egypt Urnash

"WEIRD BRIGHT WHITE SHAPE vs. 'DUDE'" = big "?" hovering over my brain for a few minutes until I read the following text, and realized that "WEIRD BRIGHT WHITE SHAPE" was supposed to read as "SILHOUETTE OF A DUDE".

The main thesis of this rant seems to be "go from a cool idea for a game to just making it, if it doesn't work so good in-screen then tweak it until it does, instead of intellectualizing your little baby idea into a giant design document that must be followed no matter how much it turns out to suck when the pixels hit the screen". Which is always good. Pretty much anything designed by committee sucks, no matter what the medium, and all the development diaries of games I've loved for the gameplay do tend to talk about iterating on the gameplay.

But there's still this desire to engage the narrative part of the brain, to tell a particular story through the medium of a game, even to tell one with subtlety and sophistication. Back in the early days we had the thriving genre of text adventures, for instance. Nothing but "talk". And not empty talk that just assumes the user's never played a single game in their life and has the attention span of a gnat.

It's also worth noting that all the games listed as being the "Less Talk More Rock Hall Of Fame" (at least the ones that I've played) are extremely simple in their inputs. No games that require the mastery of all 15+ inputs on a modern controller. 4/11 are a digital joystick and one button. Rez is a stick and two buttons. Everyday Shooter's a twin-stick shooter. How do you reconcile the simplicity of inputs (and the resulting simplicity of interaction) that this suggests goes with "rocking" with the desire some people have to make more simulationist, realistic games?

(I mean, I myself don't play huge "realistic" games any more; about all I play is little indy games that engage my reflex loops for a quick, abstracted experience - but I consider this a similar aesthetic choice to preferring to read short stories over novels.)

#37 8:46 AM, Mar 25 Reply

GTA IV? Braid?

A fuckload of talk didn't stop them being epic.

All those Flash throwaways? All rock, and all forgettable.

#38 8:52 AM, Mar 25 Reply
Dewi Morgan in reply to superbrothers

Heh - your clarification did help.

To me, a platformer cannot rock.

Not Mario Bros, not Prince of Persia. They are button-mashers and puzzlers at best. The difference between the "language of games" spoken by early Duke Nukems and Duke 3D is like that between a shopping list and a novel.

But I think I agree that the "proportionally more rock" approach still works no matter what kind of game you're designing.

My favourite games of all time include such wonders as Planescape: Torment, Ultima Underworlds, Ultimas, Fallouts, Elder Scrolls, GTAs, Deus Ex... they're mostly RPGs, so are all very heavy on talk.

Some talky moments stay with you forever, and are quoted amongst friends endlessly.

Go for the eyes, Boo!
Would you kindly?
The cake is a lie!
Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!
What good's an honest soldier if he can be ordered to behave like a terrorist?
Wanna see my batteries?
You've destroyed so much, what have you actually created?
Ah... much better!
You've made your bed. Now die in it.
And they said imitation diamond wasn't good enough!
By the way... Do you happen to know what the fine is here in Cyrodiil for necrophilia? Just asking.
You have been a thorn in my side for far too long.
Don't listen to the squirrels, they lie.
Not to sound like a capitalist oppressor, but I have people who do that for me now.
What can change the nature of a man?

Even ghastly, appallingly bad game design moments can be slightly saved by a memorable line:
The princess is in another castle.
A maze of twisty passages, all alike.

So, talk is important.

But the moments I remember best are often *visual* bits (like the bit where you first step out of the dungeon in Oblivion), or *interaction* bits: to me these last are the most subtly powerful, as they're where you actually get to touch the world.

By interaction I don't necessarily mean "where you click or drag something to do something", I mean more, "where your actions have affected the world". So, dropping Killorn Keep, nuking Megaton.

#39 9:14 AM, Mar 25 Reply

this article has too much talk and not enough rock by the way. the graphics were superfluous and vague.

#40 9:58 AM, Mar 25 Reply

There is an excellent book on the topic of language versus image; The alphabet versus the goddess: the conflict between word and image
By Leonard Shlain.

One of the conclusions that I took away from the book is that playing video games will make you a more integrated person.

#41 10:05 AM, Mar 25 Reply

I'm an illustrator, and also a gamer, and also love ico, flower, and also you have also tipped the should i / shouldn't i balance with demon's souls. In conflict to everyone else (or so it seems, skim-reading the comments) I enjoyed the sentiment here, and it has prompted me to think that maybe I could apply this theory to my books. I look forward to seeing where that leads me.

ps. your pictures, colour schemes are lovely.

#42 10:53 AM, Mar 25 Reply

This was a fantastic essay! Please keep up these awesome video game features on BB -- they're great!

#43 11:28 AM, Mar 25 Reply

What do you think of the recent game Heavy Rain for PS3 (in terms of talk and rock)?

#44 11:37 AM, Mar 25 Reply

Why are all you people Talking? Start Rocking! Awesome article!

#45 3:13 PM, Mar 25 Reply

The "manifesto", like most positional papers, spends most time covering dualist philosophy contradictions, and says a few things:
-videogame language is videogame
-tutorials suck
-execs who don't play videogames suck
Cute, well done, and applaudable, but still doesn't say anything.

I recommend an article that is also critical of the games industry:

Also, games press coverage of Ico, SotC is sickening, and the list of games reflects VERY poorly on teh broverz lisztomania.

#46 5:38 PM, Mar 25 Reply

@Egypt Urnash: Haha, yeah, these slides were a little rushed, apologies for the lack of clarity on the "dude", that image is kind of lame. With regards to text adventures, I'd have to admit that I'm out of my depth there. I have a distant respect for the genre but they don't speak to me. Also: despite this feature being billed as a manifesto I'm really not trying to be too prescriptive with my observations, I'm really just trying to follow through with some of these ideas on S:S&S EP, so I don't have much to offer for other creators.

@alec999: Yeah, in retrospect I really ought to have credited this book ("The Alphabet Versus The Goddess. By Leonard Shlain.") in the talk. I read this years ago and Schlain's thesis rang 100% true for me, although his various extrapolations were a little wild. Anyone interested in exploring 'the confliect between word & image' should definitely check this book out: http://www.alphabetvsgoddess.com/

@anon34: Er... sure! Haha? I'm a little out of my depth with these, from what I understand they've earned their place in the videogame pantheon, although it seems they may have grown a little long-in-the tooth. I know Kojima is a serious talent and I have an awful lot of respect for him, but yeah, in my estimation that dude could definitely dial down the chit-chat.

@anon37: Braid is beautiful thing at times, but err... those text interludes were just a little bit painful. The typography was hurtin', seriously, & the writing was a little hard to swallow at times. That said, I liked what it was trying to do, to offer something for the intellect to chew on before jumping into the action, and I'm glad it kept the text elements separate from the 'real' videogame experience. As for GTA IV, it's definitely something to behold, and at the start it was indeed impressive, although I found the pre-defined narrative elements went off the rails fairly soon, which unfortunately undermined my experience. Those are just some subjective impressions, they may differ from your own & that's totally cool.

@anon43: re: Heavy Rain. Not sure yet. From what little I've seen I really like the overall approach & I definitely respect the direction they're exploring, but actually I suspect the dialogue & screenplay may prove to be the weakest link. Looking forward to playing it through in any case, and I think the future for this type of entertainment is bright.

@anon45: No, you're cute. :) Love how you've chosen to boil things down to nothing. I will admit that this feature, which sprang from a five minute talk, isn't too substantial. And yeah, that list was kind of off the top of my head, drawing from what I'm familiar with, so it isn't particularly thorough.

@madame_fish: 100% agreed.

#47 7:39 PM, Mar 25 Reply

You guys are so missing the point! It's not an article about classifying games or what content should be in them. Read it again. He's talking about how games are made, how to much bureaucratic talking and interference can kill the soul of the project.

Although while that is true as such, the advice is basically just wrong. There are hundreds if not thousands of terrible games and canceled projects that tried to work just that way, a "cool vision" combined with insufficient planning. It's a recipe for disaster and I doubt many of the games on this list were made that way - I know for a fact that Mario was not.

He's addressing a very narrow problem - bureaucratics who have too say over the vision - with a "nuke them from orbit it's the only way" approach. It's not the only way and it's not a remotely viable way on a large modern team.

#48 9:24 PM, Mar 25 Reply

To preface: You use the blanket term "talk" as an umbrella word to describe two very different concepts. I don't think anyone would disagree on the first, general idea that "actions speak louder than words" when developing a video game (or any other creative project) but it's your secondary discussion of talk (i.e. dialog) that I find deeply erroneous.

Games have many purposes. They challenge their players, they tell a story, they kill a few hours, they entertain, they expose us to new ideas, they allow us to have a shared experience with others, they can even be art. These myriad purposes are determined not only by the designers behind the games, but by their public reception, and can be debated now as well as any other media.

Yet these purposes aren't exclusive to gaming; the same phrases uses to describe games can also be used to describe films, and there's a common language in the creation of both. Games can have writers (or not), art directors (or not), or sound designers (or not), just like any film. They can be silent or black and white, stylishly animated or gritty and realistic, just like any film. Some might even say that the video game is the 21st century heir to film's media throne; a natural extension of the medium.

In the 1920's and 30's, about as far past the inception of film as we are now past the inception of the modern video game, there was a huge outcry when sound films became feasible for the first time. Academics immediately cried that silent films must be maintained; they were the pinnacle of the medium, and that dialog would ruin film forever and should be avoided at all costs. Well, your argument is essential the same. And in your defense, some of the greatest minds in film hopped on that alarmist bandwagon. But it's not simply true.

Let's backtrack for a moment. Why were the first films silent? The same reason games were silent too: technological limitations. That's it. There was no unanimous cabal decision on the part of Miyamoto and Alcorn to outlaw dialog and work in a purely, as you put it, audio-visual medium. They didn't have a choice. And while it's true that games like Pac Man and films like Metropolis function more than well without dialog or superfluous narration, who's to say their creators wouldn't have utilized these tools if they'd had the option?

You can no more say that Legend of Zelda is a bad game because it's wordy than you can say a Woody Allen film isn't a good film because there's too much dialog. Similarly, you can't truly argue that Myst is a better game or a Bergman film is a better film because there's less talk. There are thousands of flash games, cell phone games, etc. that use no words at all and still suck. Because in the end, it's not about the quantity of words on screen in games, it's the quality. And just like those first dialog films of the late 20's and early 30's, not every video game is going to have great or even good dialog; the whole idea of writing for games is too new. So new, in fact, that most of the story development in games is still being done by designers instead of writers, which is a big part of the reason why many games have terrible writing.

But to say that all game writing is bad and to be avoided, thereby writing off not only incredibility influential and beloved titles like the Zelda series and Final Fantasy VII (whether you personally enjoy them or not) as well as virtually the entire genre of RPG, is ludicrous. It's also unrealistic. Dialogue in games isn't going anywhere, so why not focus on how to improve it rather than digging your heels in and trying to avoid it altogether? It's a pointless exercise.

Words, simply put, are not all bad. As someone mentioned in an earlier response, your attempt to contrast the "flat" text phrase "a joyous reunion" with your illustration of a joyous reunion actually has the opposite effect of what you intended; the words generate a subjective, personal memory that your static illustration could never convey. This emotional connection is only possible through words. In essence, while a picture may be worth a thousand words, the right word can be worth a thousand pictures. Silent films and silent games can easily be beautiful and moving, but can there ever be a [Citizen Kane, or insert your most influential film here] of video games without dialog?

Probably not. Without dialog, there is no "Rosebud." There is no "tears in rain." For me, that most perfectly crafted, emotional, and intellectually challenging film that I've know of is Blade Runner, and I strongly believe that Blade Runner would not be as emotionally hard-hitting without its dialog. And not because dialog is a necessity.

Dialog is a tool, just like menus and instructions, and throwing out dialog as unnecessary is only depriving yourself of a tool that can be very valuable if employed well. There's no doubt in my mind that I find parts of Final Fantasy VII more emotional than anything I could possibly find in "that videogame about those plumbers" or Riven, to find a more tonally-similar project. In the end, the effectiveness of dialog is all about contrast. It's about using sound and words like an artist uses negative space. The constant flow of dialog in FFVII makes the silence of Aeris' death all the more heart-stopping. This wouldn't be possible if the entire game were silent, would it?

Menus and instructions work the same way. They can be very useful, but not in excess portions. (To pause for a moment, this kind of text is yet ANOTHER definition of the word "talk" that's vastly different from the other two meanings you've used, but I want to indulge you for a moment.) For me, menus and instructions are like exposition and narration in a screenplay: they can get information across that can't be explained in a better way, but there's usually a better way. FFVII is one of the best examples of a "better way"; it tosses the player head first into the mission and story, rather than the boring them to death with an endless and mind-numbing "practice" level. This is vastly important to the enjoyability of a game, because it gets at the heart of video games' true "natural language": interactivity.

If there is any common thread between all good video games big and small, artistic or out to make a buck (assuming there's a difference between these two), it's immersive gameplay and nothing else. Gameplay that's so effective it puts you in a new world, or into the mind of a character for an hour or two in a way that no film can. The buzzword for this is, of course, "engagement." If interactivity is the ace up the sleeve, the true third (Z?) dimension that can be stretched from two-dimensional films, engagement is its success gauge. Engagement is the be all, end all of video games, and if your game isn't engaging, if its mechanics don't feel right or just plain don't work, no amount of "audio-visual" talent can save you.

And there's only one way to make sure you you achieve this kind of success in a game. To bring this discussion back around to the beginning, the only way to make sure that your game works, to know that you won't have to rely on menus and instructions and (unnecessarily) excessive dialog to make your game playable and understandable and enjoyable, is to do the right amount of "talk" before your game goes into production, end of story. There isn't an influential, award-winning game out there that was designed purely on a whim, that didn't have a very serious conceptual discussion before its development. So yes; actions do speak louder than words. Actions convey a movement that words cannot. But on all levels of game design, from dialog to design, words sure can lend a helping hand.

PS: I deeply apologize to anyone commenting after me.

#49 10:25 PM, Mar 25 Reply

Whoa, shit just got real my ninjas. :)

A lot of nice thoughts going on here, but I kind of suspect this thing is maybe getting waaaay out of proportion. There appears to be an entirely different discussion going on that's only tangentially related to the intention & content of the feature.

Specifically: there seems to be a tendency for folks to equate 'less talk, more rock' with 'no talk under any circumstances whatsoever, literacy & intelligent discussion is taboo henceforth', which is a significant & extreme distortion. So, yeah.

Anyways, great chatting with y'all & apologies for any angst you may have experienced.

Shine on you crazy diamonds!

#50 10:27 PM, Mar 25 Reply

Also for what it's worth, the essay you link to on aesthetics (whose premise can simply be summed up as consistency/time = style, fairly straight-forward) happens to be discussing a short film that employs:

a) subtitles ("text") as the main vehicle for storytelling

b) segmented storytelling, where each segment is cut by load-like screens specifically designed to "break the spell" of the narrative

c) sound effects that directly counter their onscreen partners

all with great success, I might add. yet all of these are principals you rally against in your own essay.

#51 8:11 AM, Mar 26 Reply

This is quite amazing. I think I do this, to some extent, but not to the extent I should.

I love the way this is presented as well :] The names are catchy. The phrase is, obviously, catchy. The pictures are nice and pretty.

Hoping for more rock!

#52 8:41 AM, Mar 26 Reply

What's the Moses reference about? Not that I'm religious or anything but truth be told he brought back the ten commandments not the alphabet... bizarre link.

#53 11:19 AM, Mar 26 Reply

You gave me a lot to think about. You managed to highlight a lot of what I feel about video games, but have never been able to verbalise, and I thank you for that. I do wonder though, have you ever played Katamari?

#54 2:41 PM, Mar 26 Reply

This is brilliant. It applies to music so well. So many projects get dreamed up and never go anywhere. Recently one of my bands decided to create a rock opera based on a cult-classic science fiction film from the early 80s. I certainly imagined it would fizzle out in a couple of weeks. But rather than talk, we went straight from the vision to the creation. We've got most of the songs written and never seem to slow down. We move on rather than getting stuck, and focus on the general shapes rather than the details, and it's the shapes that excite our interest. Thanks for this.

#55 10:17 AM, Mar 27 Reply

There's no one size fits all here. This is a brilliant article. As someone above wrote, some might prefer short stories over novels. Me, I often ask the question, "Do I want to watch a movie or play a game?" All these cut scenes and useless dialogue, especially id poorly acted, add absolutely nothing to the game. One writer above went on to defend "talk" using Mass Effect 2 as an example, yet his own description seems to imply that all the "talk" in there is NOT PART OF THE GAME. Can you imagine if Donkey Kong had five minute cut scenes between levels explaining why Mario is climbing the tower?

When I worked in games, I used to love cut scenes, but I also know a large percent of the audience that thinks they shouldn't exist and they skip them while playing.. er watching... you get it, right? There is no ONE WAY to please everyone. Lately I've been preferring novels over movies. I wasn't always like this.

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus were some of the last games I played and enjoyed. All these bloated stories of the mostly shooters that seem popular today don't attract me. I can read a novel for a good story. If I am to play a game, I want to PLAy and not listen to B-grade movie dialogue.

#56 1:35 PM, Mar 27 Reply

Totally agree on all the Ico love. My wife, who's not a gamer, got sucked into watching me play Ico, which she's never done before or since. She insisted I finish and we were both teary at the end.

Another game in this vein is Um Jammer Lammy, particularly when you broke out of the linear call-and-response and earned a -- forgive me for using this phrase -- free jam. It was blissful.

I develop social iPhone games now after years of DS and PSP, and we try to take this article's points to heart. It can be tough, particularly with text-based puzzle games like ours, QRANK, http://qrankthegame.com. Getting the iconography right is a big part of that, as is making it highly social. I like to think we're rocking more, talking less, but you be the judge.

A couple iPhone ones that do it well are Shift and Colorbind -- both hooked me.

#57 3:56 PM, Mar 27 Reply

Nothing's going to change until major game-releasing entities have the confidence to move towards advertising/hypemongering modes that aren't highly reliant on cutscenes and talktalktalk. Movie-like content is aped because it is thought more familiar to and so readily understood by a supposed demographic or demographics and therefore more likely to generate interest and bux.

It's like the goddamn attract mode took over the whole show sometimes. More than sometimes.

#58 12:26 PM, Mar 28 Reply

how about setting aside (once and for all please) all these mythologies about how artists need to distrust their intelligence. all these mythologies do is perpetuate the self-marginalization and self-medication of an important voice in contemporary society. duh. don't be afraid to talk and to give/receive criticism; just don't be an ass about it either. duh.

#59 5:06 AM, Mar 29 Reply


Thank you so much.

#60 5:16 AM, Mar 29 Reply

How did you manage to turn Mechner's idea for improving the devlopment PROCESS into a discussion about the CONTENT of games?

Talk about missing the point...

#61 12:03 PM, Mar 29 Reply

Inspiring piece. I'm off to some serious "rocking" and will slap my partners if they start over-talking things again ;) Thank you!

#62 3:04 PM, Mar 29 Reply

amazing post! very inspiring, true words.
"rock" is a clever name for what we´re all searching for in games.
If been referring to similar points by simply saying "Cut the bullshit", there is no shortage of that in contemporary games.

#63 9:11 AM, Mar 30 Reply
Anon in reply to DerBonk

Quake 3 Arena is a perfect example of a game that just Rocks the whole time you're playing it. There's a "story", but in the sense that Mortal Kombat had a story. It mostly consists of "Here, kill this guy next". From a player's perspective, the whole game is designed and focused to make you rock from start to finish. The only pauses in gameplay are momentary, and they're usually for respawning or loading a new match. Other than that, it's just constant, full-on rocking the whole time.

That's the thing I don't get with modern shooters. Forget about "Achievements" or "Rank" or any of that BS. It's just garbage added to it to distract from the fact that the game itself is repetitive and boring. When you compare something like Modern Warfare 2 with giants like Counterstrike or Quake3, there's a massive difference there. MW2 is really fantastic and all, but it has nothing on the level of sheer rock that classic shooters did.

It's interesting that you mention tutorials as mocking the player's intelligence. I think that really, unless your game is meaningfully complex (in an RTS, for example), there's no reason you should even need a tutorial. If you need something lengthy and boring to explain how to run around and shoot things, you're doing it wrong. Again, classic shooters like CS and Q3A didn't need tutorials, but I think the gameplay was arguably infinitely more complex and challenging than something like MW2.

I got in to video games because of these classic shooters, and it really saddens me that they're so long gone now. I think part of the problem is that when we moved primarily to consoles as our gaming platform, shooters suffered simply because of the level of difficulty. It's extremely hard to execute a game like Q3A on a shooter because the whole point of the game is it's super-fast pacing and focus on high degrees of accuracy. When you're forced to use a controller to play something like that, the experience falls apart.

So instead of solving the problem and allowing people to go back to a mouse and keyboard with their console, or a similar solution, we just ruined the genre. The industry, as a whole, took the FPS genre and made them slower, easier, and infinitely more boring. What a cop out.

#64 4:45 PM, Mar 30 Reply

I'd say that Braid did a good job, aside from those stupid books. In terms of gameplay, they showed, rather than told. And the last scene was a work of genius.

#65 2:55 PM, Mar 31 Reply

At last. Thank you.

#66 9:09 AM, Apr 4 Reply

I have to disagree with the premise of this article somewhat. I do not always play a video game to AVOID intellectual stimulation. In fact, a good intellectually-stimulating game can be absolutely sublime. And I understand that instructional language in a game can be disruptive and annoying, but that does not make language in general a detriment to the player's experience. If it were, there would be no such thing as a text-based adventure game.

Take Portal for example. The point is not that Portal talked too much or too little, but that it talked about the right things. The player is expected to listen to GLaDOS, and is occasionally even forced to stay in one area while she talks. But this spoken dialogue adds humor, depth to the character of GLaDOS, and depth to the setting of the game. And, when it came to how actually gameplay, there were no instructions to read or hear. The player was allowed to explore the mechanics and the puzzles at his or her whim.

#67 10:24 AM, Apr 5 Reply

Kind of reminds me of the arguments silent film makers made against 'talkies' back in the 20s and 30s. Language is just another brush to paint a picture with. If used badly (bad story, too much dialogue, etc.) of course it's going to suck, but language heavy games can be awesome too, if they're done right.

On the other hand, I do agree with his prototype first approach to making games. Most low-creativity types (read suits) simply lack the imagination to understand someones vision for a game right out of the gate. I prefer going from vision straight into prototyping, bypassing the suits altogether. Then turn around and demo it, once you have something concrete to show. It just works out better that way.

You'll understand your own idea better, and they'll be able to see it, and better yet play it.

#68 11:51 AM, Apr 5 Reply

As an art student I come across this distinction between the 2nd and 3rd phase a lot. generally, some people worry that they haven't 'thought through' (or spoken about) their work enough before making it, and then either go on to make contrived work, or get criticised by people for stopping the project in the first place. on the other hand, some people like to shut out any thoughts of self-relfection and are quite close-minded when it comes to critiquing in dialogue their processes - they like to 'just make' things and often see dialogue on it as offensive to some purer notion of art making.

Personally, after watching these debates (often demarcated as an interest in either "theory" [step2] or "practice"[step3]), I find it dangerous to a healthy process of cultural production to maintain any particular stance on how one should go about making things.

Is it not the case that, without planning a process or trying to stick to one specific methodology, humans genrally engage in projects which naturally intermingle all 3 stages as they go?

I just get concerned with people interpreting this kind of article as "talk and think later - just do!". what about uncritical practices and actions which are either dangerous or waste peoples time? It's often the case that people will engage in a sort of false activity which makes them feel like they are working hard, only to find that they were wasting their time.

The key thought when working on projects for me is: good or new ideas, dialogue, critiques, making, and doing, are all things which need to be consitently moved between and enjoyed in order to maintain motivation and a good reflective practice. If you jump into 'rock' and find that your a little lost, move elsewhere to another step.

#69 1:53 AM, Apr 8 Reply

One of the best articles I've read on the internet - in years.

#70 12:18 AM, Apr 9 Reply

I barely have time to comment as I've been too busy rocking. I kid, I kid....

...but this had a really positive effect on me, and without trying to suggest that it's a life changing thing, (as I think people tend to draw too grand a picture from little moments of internet zen) – i've tried to let this be my guiding principle since this article was published and I'm making a note here: Massive success.

Everyday when I've made this my approach, it's worked out really well. Stuff is happening because I'm doing stuff. Who'da thunk it?

But then I realised I had forgot to be polite and say thank you. So thanks, to Superbrothers and BB for doing what they do best, encouraging us mutants to be happy (and productive.)

#71 7:29 AM, Apr 15 Reply

Less talk, more rock: PixelJunk Shooter. 'nuff said.

#72 4:39 PM, Apr 22 Reply

This article has changed my view on games completly. Also games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Burnout, and honestly most 3D games are not art, they are entertainment. Games like Super Mario Bros.(old school mario), Legend of Zelda, Pokemon and most nintendo first party games are art because they arnt bound to publishers and deadlines like most games are. Also Okami is a game with Less Talk, More Rock.

#73 10:33 AM, Apr 26 Reply
Anon in reply to Cormac

I absolutely hated all the talk in Drake's Uncharted, especially the second one. Way too many cut-scenes that disrupted the pacing. Ironically, much of it could've been handled through game-play, but it's obvious that cinematic mandates were made by committee.

#74 2:52 AM, May 4 Reply

I think you hit on something really good but you're selling it a bit too hard. It started off really good, but then I think it got a lot more into what you're personally looking for in a video game. You failed to mention the power of books to stir people's emotions, and you're writing off the entire RPG genre.

#75 10:46 PM, May 8 Reply

... I'd have to go against just about everything after 'get something done to built momentum before getting bogged down in meetings'.

I like the talk. I like the story, and there are elements of story not communicable any other way. It is not necessarily just noise.

I don't find the "dude" more powerful or more interesting than 'Moses'. I don't find the text 'Joyful Reunion' substantially different than the image.

But then, I don't think in images. And I must admit, there are times in which I wonder if I wouldn't be happier if all my games were visual novels instead.

#76 1:05 PM, Jun 3 Reply

Here's a really interesting article that also addresses the question of video games as Art, but from a filmic POV:


#77 3:00 PM, Jul 18 Reply

I cannot believe no-one has mentioned Cave Story.

#78 3:24 PM, Jul 19 Reply

I cannot Agree more with what this artical has to say about video games in general. In the recent past video games have been destroyed and altered from their original form. the only thing I would say to add at all would be to consider the complete and utter rock created in some FPSs. most games mentioned in the above article are platformers or shoot'em'ups. I do belive that Counter Strike and Counter Strike: Source are games that qualify under more rock than talk. They have completely defined a genre of gaming and created many outlets for creativity. The games both feel a way that no other shooter feels at all. In short, I just wish to express my love for this article and games of the caliber described.

#79 6:00 AM, Sep 1 Reply

You know what was great,Kane and Lynch 2 Dog Days, the first 3 levels that is, the rest are crap. The first three levels, especially the first, throw you into downtown Tokyo, Neon lights whiz by, subtle music plays in the small apartments you rush through, the luminous glow of the flickering corner TV lights the room, all happening in a short period during a chase. Not to mention the blurry dogme filters in place as an added bonus. It really is something audio-visually pleasing. don't play the rest of the game though, its mostly gray from then on, but the first few levels, wow.

#80 5:30 AM, Oct 4 Reply


#81 12:45 AM, Dec 11 Reply

I tend to agree with #47 and #48... The way you present your argument confuses in-game script with discussions between developers. It sounds like you're saying discussions are bad because it dilutes the purity of the game.

It's true that lots of projects get drowned in talk and bureaucracy, but skipping that "step 2" is just as stupid. It just means the game will get canned later and you'll have wasted your effort.

It's kind of bitter.. and conceited. But that's not always a bad thing. Sometimes you're right and it's the world that's wrong: you're just another persecuted genius!

I also read the "aesthetic coherence" article, which was weak. It's basically a fancy spinoff of 'bad is okay if you're consistently bad."

#82 3:33 PM, Dec 23 Reply

I've always enjoyed things that were more rock than talk, and thought there should be more of them. The feeling, the rock, has always seemed more important to me than the knowledge, the talk. But I do think that talk can sometimes be important, depending on the situation. A good mix would be perfect--a whole lot of rock, and some talk, too, to balance it out.

#83 7:59 AM, Dec 25 Reply

you can have a red button or you can have a red button that says 'push here'. rock on.

#84 8:42 PM, Feb 28 Reply

132 = the iterative process. Make a prototype, give it to people to play, and like God of War, polish it based on their feedback.

Your game will be potentially more immersive if you don't show a lot of interface.

There, summed this blog post up in a LOT less talk.

#85 8:20 PM, Mar 1 Reply

While I respect your opinion and love the games that you point out, I think your conclusions are incredibly historic and out of date. Video games have evolved just like any other medium. Just as you grow up listening and learning to love the music of your adolescence, so do you with any other media you come across. Most people seem to treasure and hold most dear the music of their youth. I think video games might fall into that idea as well. It seems you fit that mold. Media evolves and changes over time, it adapts to new techniques, technologies, and insights. They meld disparate and often incongruous things together that can make you think in different ways.

I gather that you don't like the Metal Gear series because it is way too theatrical and too complex. Millions of gamers would disagree with you and wholeheartedly love the idea that you watch a 45 minute cut-scene. One complete genre of video games that completely speaks against your theory is the RPG. RPGs have been there since the beginning with dense menu systems and tons of text, with many cutscenes, with terrible and comical voice acting. Yet some of these games are heralded as the best games of all time. How do you account for that in your theory?

I completely disagree with your comments about the later version of the Zelda games being watered down by middle managers and conference rooms. Ocarina, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess are all absolute masterpieces in their own right.

I think it boils down to this. There are certain types of games for certain people. Just as any other media industry, the gaming industry will be better off by the amount of types of games it can produce. Not just creating games that boil down to little text and just "rocking" for the lowest common denominator. We are a niche consumer society in which the gaming industry is playing an increasingly larger role.

#86 6:26 AM, Mar 8 Reply

Wonderful article, and it calls to mind perhaps one of the rockingest less-talkingest games I've ever played; Machinarium. Gorgeous, evocative, and not a single word spoken throughout.


#87 8:26 PM, Mar 30 Reply

Beautifully written. And I can't see why this can't also apply to software design: a lot of instruction and explanation usually means badly designed layouts and flows.

Isn't this why angry birds is so successful?

#88 11:16 AM, Apr 3 Reply


#89 1:48 AM, Apr 6 Reply

Disappointing :(
I was really bummed when the author jumped onto the "emotions precede/override intellect" bandwagon.

#90 12:11 PM, Apr 8 Reply

No More Talk, let's ROCK!

#91 12:40 PM, Apr 12 Reply

Fantastic article & comments - I will put them on my wall, remember them and TRY to live by/up to them.

Have written a few games myself that were long winded - in mission descriptions, dialogue, cutscenes and ingame communication. Often as a result of equally long winded design meetings (wasted, spent most of that time playing Bullshit Bingo in my head anyway...sry boss, but the games did pretty well, despite).

Working on a new game right now, where it struck me that there should be no real dialogue in the fantasy world of the game - but perhaps a fantasy language, made up of sounds that invoked a feeling/understanding of what is "said", in stead. And - I strongly suggested to the game designer that we get cracking with making an early prototype based on these initial talks, hopefully finding the fun factors fast that we can then polish up.

Katamari Damacy & LIMBO - two great games that live up to the credos of the article. Especialy the latter has a great story - yet not a word is spoken in this black & white 2D game....highly recommended game experience.

Keep on rockin' in the game world!

Fo' shizzle, ma ninjazzles...

#92 12:53 PM, Apr 13 Reply

Yes we must hold in sight this initial vision of that pure gameplay experience we've felt. Then identify the only components that are needed for it and suppress every single unnecessary idea that slipped in. Because you want to squeeze all the juice before adding some more fruit.

- Its like when level designing, you're supposed to have all those unfinished walls and question marks everywhere. If you make a level schematic for some gameplay puzzle, and then surround it with walls so it looks "complete" you're making a bad mistake : you musn't fill it, you must ERASE every unnecessary piece of wall and obstacle.

Then you leave this pure layout aside until the time has come to expand it. This is, when you have dismantled it and created everything you could with nothing more than your core mechanics.

In the meanwhile, many additional features will flash in your mind, note/draw the idea down with the less words you can, and get back on your unfinished work.

You are only ready to cook a new idea when you have enough experience prototyping your primary vision.

#93 6:52 PM, Apr 15 Reply

I'm just starting a project and I'm so glad I found this when I did. If I don't just dig in the then its going to get lost. Great advice top to bottom.

#94 1:17 PM, Apr 27 Reply

What about Limbo? :)

Not trying to get some console war in this discussion, but it does seem most 'more rock, less talk' games are all on the Playstation. Probably has more to do with the Japanese style of video game making though.

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