Warren Spector: “I’d rather do something that’s an inch wide and a mile deep than something that’s a mile wide and an inch deep”

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Warren Spector, one of the minds behind System Shock 2, Deus Ex, and the Ultima games is gainfully unemployed for the first time in years. As such his mind’s turning to the areas of the industry he personally dislikes and what sorts of games he would like to make.

Speaking to Rock Paper Shotgun, the game developer said about game worlds: “I’d rather do something that’s an inch wide and a mile deep than something that’s a mile wide and an inch deep”.

He was expanding on a subject he’d just spoken about at UC Santa Cruz’s Interactive Storytelling Symposium. There he’d talked about the way that modern game development had moved away from creating game worlds into creating steadily more impressive game sets. How, by focusing development on making better production values, the cost of making a game had steadily risen precluding the ability to invest in deep games.

“I don’t want people to get the wrong impression,” he said. “I’m probably going to be talking about that quite a bit, actually, for a while now. When people think about worlds, virtual worlds, they think about enormous, fully explorable, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, that stuff. I’ve never done that. I never wanted to do it. Well, that’s not true. Back in the Ultima days, that’s kind of what we did. But around the time of Underworld and System Shock and Deus Ex, I got a lot more interested in really deeply simulated smaller spaces. I’d rather do something that’s an inch wide and a mile deep than something that’s a mile wide and an inch deep. I want to create worlds, but by “worlds” I mean someplace where every object is interactable. The NPCs actually have something to do other than kill you. Every door can be opened and there’s a reason to open them. That’s what I mean by creating world. It’s not about size and scope, it’s about depth and interactivity.”

That level of depth but with the production values of a game like Crisis would be ridiculously expensive. That is what Spector was getting at.

Does that mean the next game from Spector will be aiming for lower production values in favour of greater depth? We’ll know when he announced his next project and who knows when that will be?

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