Focus Grouping

Bill Simmons of Grantland and ESPN hates focus groups. He has a theory that they create a lowest common denominator of sorts that eliminates all originality from TV shows; there are too many voices in the kitchen which erases the unique vision a single, auteur-like presence can have over a piece of artwork.

Video games are clearly different, since they take so many different people to make, but I can’t help but be disappointed by the latest crappy addition to Torment: Tides of Numenara. Behold, the Castoff’s Labyrinth:

fathomsAre you as underwhelmed as I am? Not only does this look like it was airbrushed on by a stoned college student, it’s a hackneyed copy of Project Eternity‘s Endless Paths:

endless paths

Obsidian created the Endless Paths as a way to reward backers for Facebook likes and overall number of backers. Clearly this was an original idea–a true first–and one that was planned and executed extremely well. The art is pristine, and I clearly remember thinking “There’s a DUDE made in the rock?” and looking forward to seeing the next layer revealed.

The Castoff’s Labyrinth, on the other hand, is a complete piece of shit, one that was not planned and came in response to backers. Earlier today I commented on a Facebook post for the latest edition of the Labyrinth and mentioned this opinion but was quickly replied to by a fanboy who wrote the following:

Its not a ripoff – its a similar concept, yes, but one specifically requested by the backers.

This comment got four likes–Fanboys Unite! Kickstarter really can bring out the best in originality but it can also guide new projects into the same paths traveled by others. I’m very disappointed by inExile here. I’m confident that the game will be strong, but I’m now certain that Project Eternity will be better.

Torment: Tides of Numenara — you’ve been focus grouped.


One thought on “Focus Grouping

  1. It probably was requested by the backers, but doesn’t that just speak to the larger problem with these kinds of things? We create this system where a large group of people are all contributing ideas, and the loudest or most similar voices are heard, and what do we end up with? Same-y nonsense. Ask a gamer what they want, and they’ll probably just reference a series of specific mechanics from different games, and maybe a small tweak to them – or worse, a bunch of generic pipe-dreamy hogwash. You will never get something truly original that way. Especially when you’re basing your success off of a pre-existing franchise.

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