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AIAS Hall of Fame 'Game Changers' confess pro mistakes


Kicking off DICE 2011, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences invited Hall of Fame "game changers" to speak on a variety of topics, moderated by New York Times writer Seth Schiesel. Things got introspective when the panel discussed design decisions they wish they could take back, or a plan that didn't work out as well as they thought it would.

BioWare's Dr. Greg Zeschuk, who will be inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame this year with business partner Dr. Ray Muzyka, said that about 10 or 12 years ago he made a pitch video for Five Fingers of Death. It was going to be a kung-fu game set in the Baldur's Gate universe. Cutscenes would have have been too expensive to produce, so Zeschuk spent several weeks re-dubbing old kung-fu movies using his own voice. When the tape went out he recalls several companies laughed them off.

If anyone happens to have a copy of that tape, there are several video upload sites we'd be more than happy to recommend.

Mark Cerny said that the original Crash Bandicoot is what stood out for him. "We were out of our minds," he recalled, explaining that the game gave players only five lives for an eight hour game. "If you died, we sent you back to the beginning of the game. That was old-school .... and why were we doing that in 1996? I have no idea."

Bruce Shelley believed his biggest error was in Age of Empires 3. The team tried so much new stuff that things went off the rails. He compared it to being a kid and messing around with all the dial settings on the TV. "It just wasn't an Age game."

Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime admitted he was on the wrong side of a major design decision. Prior to releasing StarCraft, Westwood launched Command and Conquer, which had a context sensitive interface. A designer at Blizzard said they needed to do that before shipping the game, which was very close to completion. Morhaime, along with the rest of the programming staff, said "no." The developer went around Morhaime and had it implemented in a couple of days. It ended up being the right-click intelligent action interface the company still uses today. Morhaime (half-)jokingly said that nobody would go around him now.

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