Deus Ex and Epic Mickey maker Warren Spector has thrown down the gauntlet. He wants superstar programmers John Carmack and Tim Sweeney to stop fascinating on rendering believable objects and to start fascinating on creating believable minds, AI, and to start simulating life.
Imagine what they could do if they spent as much time on it as they do now modelling a gun, Spector enthused to Eurogamer Germany today at Gamescom - imagine what they could create.
"I've been actively trying to shame some of my fellow developers, specifically John Carmack and Tim Sweeney," Spector declared. "Can you imagine what games would look like if those two guys spent as much time working on non-combat AI as they do on rendering? Can you imagine what games we would have if John Carmack decided he wanted to create a believable character as opposed to a believable gun?
"I mean, oh my god! Those guys are way smarter than I am. I don't know how to solve the problem, but they could figure it out.
"Stop rendering!" he ordered. "Start creating humans or mice. I don't care which."
Games are stuck in the mud, Warren Spector believes. They do violence, but they don't do "basic human interactions" like sex and emotion very well at all.
"Think about what we do," he urged. "Think about our controls. We have a controller that has a bunch of buttons on it. That maps really well to, I'm going to press this button at this millisecond which will cause a pixel to move on the screen and create another pixel. We do that really well, and that maps really well to pulling a virtual trigger on a virtual gun. It's easy for us to do that."
"We focus a little bit too much on violence, but we all know how to do it. It's easy. And a lot of players seem to like it. It isn't all we can do and it certainly isn't all we should do."Warren Spector
Also, consider that games spawned out of Dungeons & Dragons, he said - fantasy worlds. And those worlds are filled with swords and guns and "we all think it's cool", so "that's what we do".
"Trying it on a conversation is very hard in the extreme," Spector countered. "It doesn't map very well to pushing buttons. It's not what we're doing right now.
"I find it annoying where people don't try to solve that problem. But I understand why. It's a very hard problem to solve. One of the reasons I find games like this so appealing as a developer is, at Disney it's hard to make a game like most other companies force you to make. They don't even want you to do a game like that.
"So where I am in my life and my career, I want to explore things like, what does it mean to have a brother? How do you form a family? Disney is a great company to work for if you want to talk about the possibility of redemption, and how important family and friends are to you. Most companies are not interested in that."
He added: "We focus a little bit too much on violence, but we all know how to do it. It's easy. And a lot of players seem to like it. It isn't all we can do and it certainly isn't all we should do."