[stella] Activision: Then Vs. Now

Subject: [stella] Activision: Then Vs. Now
From: Glenn Saunders <cybpunks@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 22:44:59 -0700
At 12:31 AM 8/27/2000 -0400, you wrote:
Situations like that are just really saddening when having the money for a
good lawyer, repeated appeals, and the like allows you to compete unfairly
like that.

That's a little off to the aside, since the main competition being discussed is betwen commercial emulation and freeware emulation, in which case the freeware emulation is the unfair competition, don't you think?

But the most frustrating thing is when a company makes poor judgement calls on a project--thinking they are doing the right thing, but in effect compromising the project's quality needlessly. That's certainly the case with Activision Classics. I'm sure on one level it made sense for them to deal with Livesay, a known commodity who had delivered a finished product (albeit a clearly deficient one by the point AC was started), vs. a new developer. But on an objective qualitative level it made no sense to turn down a finished excellent 2600 emulator for Playstation, and it would in no way have broken their bank to pay Cyberpunks a few extra bucks to include the Stella footage. These companies take the path of least resistance. They have NO INTEREST in the quality of the end product. All they care about is their numbes. Middle managers allocate budgets and deadlines and as long as the developer claims it is done and submits the code, then the managers are happy. It really appears as though there are very few people in positions of power at these game companies who insist on quality.

This is in stark contrast to Activision's past. I don't recall whether it's in the final cut of Stella or not, but David Crane says that many times games would go all the way to final silicon and deliberately NOT be released because they just weren't considered fun enough. Now some of these games are quite fun, relatively speaking, like Kabobber, but they still weren't released. Activision had very stringent quality controls back then. Apparently that went out the door after the crash of 84 took away all of that company's brilliance.

Yeah, the main irony in all this was that I gave the producer of Activision Classics a highlights reel that had clips like this in it, clips that should be mandatory viewing for any nameless game company drone, clips that I thought might motivate him to continue the great legacy of Activision, and I'm sure the guy watched it, and yet despite that, this producer remained the perfect drone and did not try to rock the boat make Activision Classics a better product on any level. Did not stand up and demand that the release be postponed, did not demand more titles in it, did not demand fixes to the sound or colors or framerate, did not go to his superiors to convince them the video footage was now a critical component. Instead it would be "nice" to have these things, but mediocre was good enough. The deadline came up, so it shipped.

Nothing illustrates the vast difference between then and now as well as this incident...

I walked away from that negotiation thinking to myself, WHY BOTHER being a videogame producer if you aren't passionate enough about videogames to FIGHT to make your product as good as it can be?

I can't remember the movie, I think it was a Woody Allen movie, or Steve Martin, where they are at this Hollywood party and someone says something like "ah, so you are in the movie business. If you really love movies so much, why do you make so many bad ones?" It was something like that. Anyone know that quote? I guess ultimately everyone's just in the MONEY business.

The worst part is that through it all, Activision Classics sells enough copies that despite the poor reviews, Activision can feel validated by it, even though the producer posted a defensive message on usenet to answer the critics. They can spin it any way they want. Even if it hadn't sold, they'd just claim that the 2600 thing was just a "fad" that had its day.

It's beyond them to think that maybe if they had done it right, the product might have sold twice as many copies. It sold enough for them to consider it a success and to immediately move on to the next product.

They don't seem to care that there may be (and in fact certainly are) a limited number of swings at a commercial 2600 emu that maybe they should try to get it right because maybe they'll never go back to it and whatever is out there might be all that's representative of 2600 history to certain people. That's too esoteric a concept for them to grasp.

[That's something certainly Cyberpunks are aware of, and why the original Starpath CD took around 2 years to produce.]

And sure enough, there is no Activision Classics 2. Out of the dozens of Activision, Imagic, and Absolute titles they could put in there, they cheaped out and only put 30 on, and that's all you'll probably ever play on the Playstation.

I just think if you are going to do anything of a creative nature, try to do the best you can. I'm still rather disappointed over some of the compromises that crept into Stella at 20, and it's really a healthy thing to be dissatisfied with your work, because being self-critical is one of the only things that drives you to be better in your next work.

Glenn Saunders - Producer - Cyberpunks Entertainment
Personal homepage: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/1698
Cyberpunks Entertainment: http://cyberpunks.uni.cc

-- Archives (includes files) at http://www.biglist.com/lists/stella/archives/ Unsub & more at http://www.biglist.com/lists/stella/

Current Thread