Monday, 21 February 2011

The Dragon Speech

This weekend I discovered the "Dragon Speech" by Chris Crawford and found it really great. He brings up a lot of good stuff, and touches on many subjects that I have ranted about. You can watch it here:

Part 1 "The Dream Well"

Part 2 "Interactivity"
Part 3 "Genesis of Art"
Part 4 "Characters"
Part 5 "Charge!"

I am actually a bit embarrassed that I never seen this talk before. I have heard about it, but never thought much about it and thinking it was not worth any attention. Now that I have seen it, I can say that is definitely not the case and it is one of the best things I've heard/seen on games.

Which brings me to another point: This talk is almost twenty years old and yet not much have changed. The points he bring up on focus on "fun" and serving a hardcore market are all still very valid. Also, characters in games have evolved very little, in fact, apart from a few IF games like Galatea, not much has happened since Monkey Island days. It feels like his views were ignored by most people in the industry. (If anybody has sources on what kind of impact it had on other people at the time, I would be really happy to hear about it!)

I like to think that things are shaping up a bit though. For instance, players and media have started to accept that games does not have to just about "fun", but can be about other type of emotions as well. (Something I like to think the horror games of the last ten years or so as had a part in). We are also starting to see the first step at a merge between the "casual" and "hardcore" market*, with games such as Drawn, which I see as the beginning of a less specialized market. The situation is far from good, but at least there are some sources of light.

Another thing of interest is that Chris Crawford has never made a conventional games since he held this speech. Right now he seems to be involved in something called Storytron, which I have to admit I do not know much about and have never tried. Now I feel I really must give it a go though! If anyone has tried it, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts about it.

Finally, I also recently heard that Chris will be giving a speech at GDC this year. So will definitely try to attend that (me and Jens will be going there because of IGF and all).

*I do not like the names casual and hardcore. because they compartmentalize the audience far too much and I also think it is a bad way at looking at things (either you like to shoot stuff or play simple puzzles!!!). But since I refer to a trend in the industry I thought it was kinda okay to to use them.


  1. Very interesting speech, which I will finish listening to after school. :)
    For the part that I have seen so far, it still seems very applicable today, like you said in this post.

    Was this merely a confirmation of what you already believed in at Frictional Games, or has this somewhat changed your view on things?

  2. Tottel:
    No change, but it make me think more about characters in games.

  3. Whoah, I have never heard of this guy or his games but it seems he has been (or still is?) a man with some very interesting ideas.

    I wonder if his ideas would have been rejected still nowadays.

  4. The audio quality is so poor in those clips that it's hard to understand even the half of the jargon Chris says :(. Does anyone know where I could read a text version of that speech?

  5. I suggest a great place to start to explore IF:

    (casually, linked in this page there is :-D )

    The best software to try some real and effective IF, IMHO, is:

  6. Also very interesting: This "talk" between Chris Crawford and Jason Rohrer called "Into The Night With Jason Rohrer and Chris Crawford". They meet at GDC and show each other their games and discuss a lot about the industry, the art of making games, innovation, etc.

  7. Watched that, too. Chris Crawford seems to be a bit unsure where his journey is gonna take him - he invested his whole life into this, but now he has doubts... Guess it turned out that his "dragon" has a heart of a succubus. If I've learned something from him, it's that if you want to do something revolutionary, you better take smaller steps, stay on the cutting edge, and feel the current state of the industry, because if you end up way ahead of it, it might just catch up to slice you... And if, while you're doing that, it so happens that the conditions are just right for the cutting edge to jump ahead, and you unknowingly gave it a little push, then so be it... Dream big, head above the clouds, but keep your feet on the ground.

  8. BTW, i found it very anoying how Jason Rohrer never lets Chris Crawford finish a sentence. I mean, he asks him a question, the guy starts, and Jason Rohrer jumps in, cuts him of, and answers his own question... Dumb-ass...

  9. "In other news, all the lights are on here. I tried playing Amnesia, but it turns out I’m a coward. If you’re reading this, Frictional; AMAZING JOB! I’ve never been this scared in a game, ever."

    That was from Notches blog, i figure you'll know by now but I just saw that. Let's hope that gets some sales. :)

  10. Btw. congratulations. Well deserved.

  11. I really like this Chris Crawford's ideas, hope you people at Frictional learn something from him.

  12. He's a very nice guy, and an absolute showman. During the I Concreso Internacional de Videojuegos UCM in 2010 he featured a nice and highly funny exhibition, talked about Storytron, Interactivity and other stuff, always filled with lots of fun and a highly trained performance. : )

    You can see some pictures on there:

  13. I think what Crawford envisions, is well beyond the capabilities of inform7. He is, i think, a man capable of more than average. But he seems to know not his limits. Had he tried to make a simple subsystem, he could have made change. Had he theoretized and create a package for limited non-linearity, it could be used the way first graphical engines were used. Imagine a solution to the linearity problem that is just this one step ahead of the time. We haven't made more than this one step for last twenty years, while Crawford wastes away his effort on leap, that he just can't make.

    He is not completely aware of just how vast the subject of emergent stories is, despite his shot at pioneering it.


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