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Monument Valley designer: Games must "escape the trope of violence"

Monument Valley designer: Games must "escape the trope of violence"

"At a time when freemium ruled the roost, we decided the best thing for Monument Valley was to put it out at $4 with no in-app purchases," said the game's lead designer Ken Wong during DICE Europe in London.

"We broke even after a week."

The notion that ustwo is a studio that sets out to do things a little differently to what's perceived as popular or standard is nothing new, but it's a theme that ran throughout Wong's presentation – the bulk of which focused on the design decisions behind the award-winning iOS hit.

"As some of you will know, ustwo isn't primarily a game developer, so we share a work place with smart digitally savvy people who own devices but don't necessarily play games," he continued.

"We're constantly thinking about user experience, and how it can best be applied to games, and we're also constantly reminded that there are still plenty of people out there who don't play games."

Barriers

It's Wong's view that game developers are often too close to the thing they love, making it easy to "miss the high barrier to entry for people who don't play them."

The final idea we had to let go of is a longer game is a better game.
Ken Wong

He continued, "Because we grew up living and breathing games, we don't always have a good understanding of what they are, or what they can be.

"We need to lower the barrier of entry. But wait, you might be thinking casual games for broad audiences have been around for years and look where that has got us – cheap games devoid of character, endless clones and games about flapping birds, as well as products so full of free-to-play features means they're basically a form of gambling.

"Is it possible to create something that has mechanical, or thematic depth, but make it simple and accessible?"

Monument Valley - no BFG

For ustwo, a big hurdle to making the game as accessible as it needs to be was culling its length.

"The final idea that we had to let go of is that a longer game is a better game," Wong added.

"We decided that the catharsis you get when you complete it is so good, we had to help more people complete it, which was more important than making a longer game. For many older players, Monument Valley is the first game they've ever completed."

GamerGate

Wong's message was that developers need to layer their depth within an air of accessibility, just as in Monument Valley.

"There are hundreds of millions of people have a state of the art games platform and games store right in their pocket and don't even know," he continued.

"There will always be games for gamers. Shooting and running and jumping are just too fun to go away," added Wong, likely referencing the recent controversy surrounding #GamerGate.

"Some mechanics and tropes will live on forever, getting better with each iteration, but we must also grow and mature as a culture and an art form and an industry.

"We have to escape the trope of violence as the default form of conflict resolution and money the default form of reward."

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

Comments

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Andy Hicks
Monument Valley is the first video game I ever bought for my Mum. She likes puzzles, I thought she'd like the art-style, and her tolerance for violence isn't very high. She's 64, and she loved this game.

There's plenty of "traditional" gamer-ish games that I enjoy, that wouldn't really resonate with her. But I loved Monument Valley, and wanted to show her that there were interesting, artsy, challenging, story-driven, non-Candy Crush, non-Call Of Duty type games out there that she'd like too. So, I have to give ustwo a TON of props here, and I can't wait for the next one.
Paul Cohn
How is talking about accessible games versus "shooting and running and jumping" a reference to gamergate? Did you have an SEO quota to fill?
Keith Andrew
A large chunk of GamerGate is focused around the idea that 'real' games are being squeezed out by games journalists eager to cover alternative, indie or casual releases.
jon jordan
If we're relying for our SEO on closing paragraphs, we're in serious trouble!
James Cat
Hi Edward - I think the speaker meant in game design, not in the real world
Edward
"We have to escape the trope of violence as the default form of conflict resolution and money the default form of reward."

We already did. Most people work hard because they value what they do and that includes those who make lots of money doing it. Violence is far from a default approach to conflict resolution. Neither of these provide substantive moral guidance to people not living in a war zone dominated by mercenaries.
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