Blowhards

Denis Dyack talks too damn much.

I love him for it.

I applaud Dyack and his ilk partly because I operate in a medium that demands constant content, and having people like him around to spout some off-putting remark that can be blown dramatically out of proportion polarizing entire nations of the internet makes me feel about him the way that I suspect a lot of late-night talk show hosts feel about Britney Spears. But, mostly I like it because in an age where everyone else seems to be operating off talking points provided directly by PR firms staffed by self-aware marketing AIs, it’s nice to see people working from the seat of their pants.

I like blowhards. I honestly do, because even when they are being combative, dismissive, argumentative and offensive they are moving discussions about gaming forward in a way that a focus-group friendly marketing message never can.

I’ve had the opportunity and occasional misfortune to interview a healthy number of industry professionals. Most of these interviews are interminable. They stretch on for epochs as I ask pointed and researched questions answered by an interpretive reading of feature sheets and press releases.

I’ve had surreal moments in conversations with gaming’s middle-men that seem to not be related at all to the questions I am asking.

Q: Recently, investors for your game were seen throwing themselves from bridges while burning effigies of you. How do you respond?

A: Super-Parabolic-Asfixiation-3000 will feature twelve online modes, emergent gameplay, with genre-busting, myocardial infarction inducing action. It’s World of WarCraft meets Quake on the bus to Grand Theft Auto’s house, but with mutant elephants!

Annoying? Yes. Unusual? Not at all.

So when guys like Dyack, Mark Rein, Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli or David Jaffe start shooting their mouth off to the press, I think two things:

1) It’s great that there are still guys in the industry willing to be frank about their craft.
2) I hope their PR reps live in states with gun control laws.

That’s not to say I agree with more than a quarter of what these guys say. I frequently think they must be drinking Kool-Aid laced with acid and Altoids. I assume that Cevat’s recent statistic about a 20-to-1 ratio of piracy-to-purchase in the PC market was extracted during a recent colonoscopy along with his own head.

But, the fact that he’s clearly inventing statistics isn’t the point. The point is that he’s keeping the discussion alive; he’s engaged with the audience, even if they are looking for lighters to fire up their flame throwers, and he’s clearly off-the-reservation in terms of keeping to a company line.

Odd as it may seem, his willingness to dig into the mire of the discussion and tackle it head on, even though I completely disagree with his research and his conclusions, gives him credibility. I don’t feel like he’s talking with careful strategies and unclear motives in mind. The man’s heart, liver and pancreas are right there dripping on his sleeve.

He comes from the old-school tradition of game developers; a tradition that pretty much ended when John Romero discovered how swiftly and irrevocably one could annihilate their career by crossing the line, or in Romero’s case being launched by catapult over it. Even Dyack is on that road lately delving into gaming forums where angels fear to tread and meeting the enemy head-on in its native habitat. It's like seeing Lex Luthor urinate on the front porch of the Fortress of Solitude while Superman is home eating Cheetos and watching American Idol.

It’s crazy. It’s audacious. And, dammit if I don’t love him for doing it. That’s chutzpah, friends, and while it’s starting to look like he might take it on the chin, I can't help but cheer for him. In an age where developers are tightly sequestered behind the layered defenses of professional PR, I simply must cheer for the bring it on attitude.

While I give a different kind of credit to the paragons of gaming; guys like Cliff Blesneuiskiewitzer (there’s a reason you went by Cliffy B, pal), John Carmack, Will Wright, Warren Spector and, yes, even Ken Levine, it’s not quite the same. Those guys are bullet proof right now. They’re unimpeachable. They’re Teflon, baby. You can fling as much mud as you want at them, and they'll walk away 99.8% pure. It’s like they’re rubber and you’re glue.

The great thing about Dyack, et al is that when they expose their tender underbelly and dare you to hit them with that baseball bat, they make a satisfying Ooomph sound as they crumple under the blow. They’re vulnerable as kittens. Angry, daring kittens that would scratch a pit-bull and then dare it to do something about it. +10 points to moxie!

More blowhards, I say. If nothing else, they make things interesting.

Comments

I have no comments really, because I agree with essentially every single word of this.

Denis Dyack - Gaming's Moxie Kitten

I dunno, I think guys like Dyack are actually undermining the credibility of themselves and their game by being a jackass in public. If your game is really as good as you think it is, then let the game speak for itself. Producing quality games is a much better way to shut the trolls up than stoop to their level and post moronic things on NeoGAF.

Nyles wrote:

Denis Dyack - Gaming's Moxie Kitten

Also, what the hell's a Moxie Kitten?

Cevat's probably not too far off. I mean, I'm sure the man is completely balderdashing that stat, but Crysis was pirated A TON.

There's a delightful thread about Cevat's comments on piracy right here. Just sayin'

I've been cringing, reading about Denis' exploits in the past year or two. He's been around gaming communities for years mixing it up, but this may be the first game that can't keep up with his hubris. We'll see how it turns out.

Dukeman330 wrote:

Also, what the hell's a Moxie Kitten?

They're just kittens with 10 extra points of moxie. They grow up into Sassy Cats. When Too Human comes out, Dyack graduates to Sassy Cat status, or transforms into a Soggy Kitty, which would be pathetic indeed.

Dukeman330 wrote:

I dunno, I think guys like Dyack are actually undermining the credibility of themselves and their game by being a jackass in public. If your game is really as good as you think it is, then let the game speak for itself.

I'm more in line with this sentiment, myself.

Although I think most of the NeoGAF post was low-key, Dyack could just as well be Derek Smart. He and Uwe Boll are usually the sort of blowhards people think about when they think of over the top gamer-related personas. And while their boastful antics are fun to watch, I don't really think they do much in terms of moving discussion forward. Smart, for example, has been cited as saying he'll stir the internet pot just to provide a chuckle. Because of this, I can't really give anyone like him any brownie points for breaking with convention and jumping into internet flame wars. Those are the antics of a 12 year old with too much time on his hands, not an industry professional.

The meat of the matter is that they're communicating in an open, honest way that didn't come from some PR Associate's little blue binder. That's great, that's something I can totally get behind, to see people at E3 talk about their design philosophy and their setbacks (and not just spout off some random crap about regressive linear lighting and 800 people FPS maps) would be great. Despite Bleszinsky's G4tv inspired personality, he gives off a very friendly, light vibe. He's oddly accessible. That's cool.

But watching them crumple under the weight of their hubris? That's very enjoyable in a sick, sadistic way. We're always happy to laugh at the exploits of some assclowns. Just looking at the bile that came from Cevat's comments about the PC market gives me the feeling that they've made a lot of very bitter gamers rethink their love for CryTeam.

Not everyone is lucky to be Gabe Newell. Valve was certainly full of hot air for their HL2 launch, but they've made some excellent business decisions and have become little darlings.

Having blowhards like Dyack in the industry is a mixed bag. In one sense they give the industry credibility by publicizing the names of game developers. Alternatively they may do damage to the industry by having onlookers from outside of the industry view game creators as childish.

However, I doubt many outside the industry look at the directors themselves, so I suppose it's a net positive for the sake of our personal entertainment.

gamesource wrote:

Having blowhards like Dyack in the industry is a mixed bag. In one sense they give the industry credibility by publicizing the names of game developers. Alternatively they may do damage to the industry by having onlookers from outside of the industry view game creators as childish.

Hollywood still has the game industry beat by light years in terms of looking childish. Honestly, Elysium said pretty much exactly what I think, only with far more articulation than I could provide. I like guys who speak out like Dyack because it shows they're passionate about what they're doing and that they believe in it. I get no such feeling from someone who is just spewing rehearsed PR material. Even if Too Human sucks (and I have no reason to think it will if you spend 5 minutes looking at Silicon Knights' previous work), you can tell by watching Dyack talk about it that he believes in it and that he feels in his heart that they have made the best game they possibly can and that gains them a ton of respect from me.

Did he lose Internet points for going on EGM Live and telling the gaming press what they needed to hear? Yes. Did he lose further points by publicly bashing Epic rather than just saying "We'll let the courts decide this lawsuit."? Yes. And how many other game designers would have the balls to even think about doing either? Maybe 3 or 4 at most. That says a lot right there.

This could be because I generally don't swallow PR hype about games but I'd like to see more people do what Dyack does. When I watch some carefully choreographed interview on GameTrailers, it doesn't make me any more excited for a product because I know the people are just saying what they're been told to say, not necessarily what they feel about their game. The presentation lacks any passion and soul. When I hear Dennis Dyack make an informal video presentation or fight with EGM Live about how his game is covered (regardless of who was right), that psyches me up because he's saying "This is what I am making, I think it's freakin' awesome and I want you to think it's freakin' awesome too." Anyone can sell a game by giving you a list of bullet points that are the same as every other game. A true artist won't try to sell you, they'll try to convert you.

The great thing about Dyack, et al is that when they expose their tender underbelly and dare you to hit them with that baseball bat, they make a satisfying Ooomph sound as they crumple under the blow.

*Cringes* That's a horrible image! Those poor, poor kitends! Won't someone save teh kitends?!

Mr. Co-Founder wrote:

Cevat’s recent statistic about a 20-to-1 ratio of piracy-to-purchase in the PC market was extracted during a recent colonoscopy along with his own head

You haven't been to Europe, have you, sir?

boogle wrote:

Cevat's probably not too far off. I mean, I'm sure the man is completely balderdashing that stat, but Crysis was pirated A TON.

Yep. Other than France/Germany/Britain and Scandinavian countries, I think this ratio might get way above 20:1.

Sean "Elysium" Sands wrote:

It's like seeing Lex Luthor urinate on the front porch of the Fortress of Solitude while Superman is home eating Cheetos and watching American Idol.

Superman stops eating for a second and turns the sound down on the TV. He listens of a second and thinks, 'I think I must have left a tap running in the kitchen.'

Higgledy wrote:

Superman stops eating for a second and turns the sound down on the TV. He listens of a second and thinks, 'I think I must have left a tap running in the kitchen.'

Comicbookguy wrote:

I think you'll find that Superman doesn't need to lower the volume on the TV. Besides being able to speak all human languages he is also fluent in lip-reading said languages. Not only this but Superman is capable of differentiating sounds that he wants to hear at different volumes - even from nearer sounds that may obscure them to any mere human beings. *Snort*

For your severe lack of knowledge of the biological and psychological aptitudes of kryptonians under red sun conditions i shall be taking your "Superfriends" annual collectors edition...

I, too, would prefer a blowhard over a windbag, anytime!

Comicbookguy wrote:

For your severe lack of knowledge of the biological and psychological aptitudes of kryptonians under red sun conditions i shall be taking your "Superfriends" annual collectors edition...

Harsh but fair.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

Did he lose further points by publicly bashing Epic rather than just saying "We'll let the courts decide this lawsuit."? Yes.

That is not entirely true. The only reason everyone found out about the lawsuit was because Mark Rain made a public statement that SK is suing Epic. Even in follow up interviews with D. Dyack, when ever a question about a lawsuit would come up... it would usually end with 'No comment.' If anything, Epic made this more public than SK.

Even Dyack is on that road lately delving into gaming forums where angels fear to tread and meeting the enemy head-on in its native habitat. It's like seeing Lex Luthor urinate on the front porch of the Fortress of Solitude while Superman is home eating Cheetos and watching American Idol.

Nei wrote:

That is not entirely true. The only reason everyone found out about the lawsuit was because Mark Rain made a public statement that SK is suing Epic. Even in follow up interviews with D. Dyack, when ever a question about a lawsuit would come up... it would usually end with 'No comment.' If anything, Epic made this more public than SK.

I could be wrong but I believe Dyack came out swinging first. The lawsuit was revealed on July 19th last year at which time which Dyack made a statement against Epic. I don't believe Mark Rein (who I've always considered more of a windbag than a blowhard) said anything until after that, though I think that's only because Dyack beat him to the punch. The main reason I've generally believes Silicon Knights to be on the right side of that lawsuit is that while no one else has sued Epic, a number of games using UE3 (particularly on the PS3 which is what a lot of the lawsuit is about, it isn't all to do with Too Human) were delayed with engine problems being cited as the reason. Since that original statement, Dyack's just said "This is for the courts to decide." but Rein has continued on multiple occasions to take cheap shots over the issue. There will definitely be a lot of egg on his face if they lose.

I think there are 2 requirements, (1) candor and (2) relevance, and you're downplaying the need for the second one. As an example, there's a certain independent developer who Certis likes to fire. There's no doubt he's speaking candidly, and there's no doubt he believes what he's saying, but his remarks are so far out of touch that they bring little to the table. It's like if I go to a vegan picnic and opine on the best way to cook bratwurst.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

I could be wrong but I believe Dyack came out swinging first. The lawsuit was revealed on July 19th last year at which time which Dyack made a statement against Epic.

...yes, but...

Shacknews wrote:

Silicon Knights, developer of upcoming Microsoft-published Xbox 360 action game Too Human, has sued Epic Games due to grievances with Epic's handling of its widely-licensed Unreal Engine 3. News of the suit came from Epic Games, which notified the press of the legal action.

I disagree completely. While the one point I can't argue is that you enjoy these types, their benifit to the gameing industry is questionable, at best. I don't need someone else (i.e. someone who should be developing games) citing statistics (they're more often than not misused, made up or not) to push their own agenda. I have the nightly news for that. These types are not better than a hollywood actor. They're both driving ferraris and living in mansions, all the meanwhile espousing some off the wall political view that you'd have to be insane to agree with (this is how we get cults like scientology started...) These "men" are acting like any other spoiled rotten rich kid and they are best ignored, or laughed at for their amusement. But to say things like

But, the fact that he’s clearly inventing statistics isn’t the point. The point is that he’s keeping the discussion alive; he’s engaged with the audience, even if they are looking for lighters to fire up their flame throwers, and he’s clearly off-the-reservation in terms of keeping to a company line.

Odd as it may seem, his willingness to dig into the mire of the discussion and tackle it head on, even though I completely disagree with his research and his conclusions, gives him credibility. I don’t feel like he’s talking with careful strategies and unclear motives in mind. The man’s heart, liver and pancreas are right there dripping on his sleeve.

seems completely irrational to me. Isn't making stuff up the opposite of credibility? And the only reason they espouse such irrational opinions is because they have nothing to loose. If you were rich (or crazy) you'd have nothing to loose either. At the end of the day, these people are no better than Paris Hilton, both are nothing more than attention whores.

The 20 to 1 pirate rational? Remember the MPAA saying insane percentages of college kids pirated movies (44% of all piracy)? Remember all the money Universities spent to try and prevent the activity? Remember the recent article that proved, through their own admission, the MPAA was full of sh*t and making things up, that only 15% of movies are pirated by college students? Yeah, sounds familiar, give it time.

Any idiot can say what's on their mind, it takes a smart man to apply a filter. I'm not saying tote the party line, but I am saying these people should be saying things that are construtive, not ranting and raving about nonsense. We have Michael Bay and Tom Cruise for that (for different reasons).

Nei wrote:

Silicon Knights, developer of upcoming Microsoft-published Xbox 360 action game Too Human, has sued Epic Games due to grievances with Epic's handling of its widely-licensed Unreal Engine 3. News of the suit came from Epic Games, which notified the press of the legal action.

Fair enough then. I guess Rein had sent out notice of the suit and maybe that's why Dyack responded.

As one of those self-aware marketing AIs, this hits too close to home. There's nothing worse than having your spokesperson decide to go off the ranch during a media interview. It never ends well.

If the interview is to promote a new product, your entire job as a spokesperson is to promote said product. Not say anything about what you think or feel or whatever because it doesn't matter. You don't want to say anything that will distract from the message of the new product. You're at the tail end of a multi-year process that involved hundreds of people and tens of millions of dollars.

That's why we give you talking points. Not because we think you're a retarded monkey, but because humans are egotistical and chatty: if somebody asks you what you think and is actually paying attention (and interviewers have to, it's their job), then you're going to go on and on. That's also why the first rule of media training is answer the question and the SHUT THE f*ck UP. You don't have to fill the awkward silence...that's the interviewer's problem.

CEOs are the worst though. Not just because they're harder to control. They're the worst because of the damage they do. You might yuck it up about Dyack and his piracy comment, but a casual read of our own thread on it shows that a good handful of people said they'd never buy a Crytek game again. Multiply that by all the Internet forums out there and you're talking enough numbers to put a serious dent in Crytek's new title revenue projections.

Dyack shouldn't be admired for his off-the-cuff comments, he should be castigated for hurting his own company. He's not a blowhard, he's a sh*tty CEO who permanently lost his company customers because he couldn't keep his little trap shut.

It's also the second reason we give talking points. Dyack's piracy bit was 94 words out of a 2,000 word interview. That's less than 5% of the article. Looking at the coverage that bit got, you'd think the entire interview was about him pissing on the heads of PC gamers and calling them bad names. We give talking points to make sure that the two or three things the interviewer is going to remember and write about don't include you insulting your existing or potential customer base.

They're both driving ferraris and living in mansions

Developers find it hilarious when people say this about them.

Then they drive home in a Civic.

OG_slinger wrote:

It's also the second reason we give talking points. Dyack's piracy bit was 94 words out of a 2,000 word interview.

Cevat Yerli will send you a 'thank you' note.

Elysium wrote:
They're both driving ferraris and living in mansions

Developers find it hilarious when people say this about them.

Then they drive home in a Civic.

But with a REALLY nice stereo. Yuppies.

Elysium wrote:
They're both driving ferraris and living in mansions

Developers find it hilarious when people say this about them.

Then they drive home in a Civic.

Yes, most developers are overworked and underpaid. Hell, EA used to run developer farms where they would burn you out in a year and discard you. However, I'm not talking the 99 percentile, we're talking about the stars, the people you brought up. The Sid Meiers, Will Wrights, Tim Sweeneys, John Carmacks, etc. These "developers" driver whatever the hell they like, and they're also the only ones you (meaning everyone) will hear from or listen too. Gears of War content developer #17 isn't making headlines, Denis Dyack is.

(PS - I'd be willing to bet the small 5 or so guys that put SOASE together are doing pretty well too).

I appreciate that Og, but on the other end, sometimes taking the life out of the conversation by so strictly limiting the discussion and putting what are usually creative people inside of a sealed box isn't productive. I don't know if I've worked with you or not, because as in any profession there are some really good PR folks and some really poor ones, so I'll only speak from personal experience.

I think too often PR assumes that both readers and interviewers won't recognize crafted marketing messages when they hear it, or that if they do they won't respond negatively. I think over compartmentalized messages is part of what's creating the perception of distance between gamer and devloper, and it's significant in this industry because unlike others it's actually something that's been lost. The reason you have so many folks going off the reservation is because you have an industry built on the interplay between gamer and game maker, a lot of these guys miss that as much as we do.

NOW, that's not to say there aren't a lot of idiots going around trying to do interviews. We've all read or heard interviewers where you cringe at the question. No, Blizzard isn't going to tell you the release date exclusively just because you tried to trick them. No, the developer isn't going to bad mouth the executive at the publisher. C'mon!

But, I _do_ feel like increasingly the sensible middle ground is being lost. I'm far from a fan of having PR sit in on calls, but I understand when it's a necessity, but when it interferes with the dialogue then that's a disservice to everybody. I think it's safe to assume that the CEO of a company has earned the right to be in charge of his product regardless of how that mixes into the talking points you guys would prefer. There's a hubris in some corners of PR as the gatekeepers of entertainment information, and (not to go all Star Wars) the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

And, to be blunt, you need these instigators as much as we do. They keep passions alive. Wanna bet that, even with Dyack going around like a crazy person, Too Human still sells pretty well? I haven't seen David Jaffe suffer because of his quick temper. Gamers have proved every time they will buy from companies and industries that treat them with skepticism at best and ire at worst that we're going to buy your games pretty much no matter how we're handled.

You might yuck it up about Dyack and his piracy comment, but a casual read of our own thread on it shows that a good handful of people said they'd never buy a Crytek game again

Here's the thing. I can't tell you the number of games I promised never to buy because of things like this and then went out and bought on release. Anonymous people on the internet are notorious for making big claims they have no intention of following through on. I would think the first rule of PR is to ignore forum people, because they vacilate between crazy and liar.

Dyack's piracy bit was 94 words out of a 2,000 word interview. That's less than 5% of the article. Looking at the coverage that bit got, you'd think the entire interview was about him pissing on the heads of PC gamers and calling them bad names. We give talking points to make sure that the two or three things the interviewer is going to remember and write about don't include you insulting your existing or potential customer base.

Part of my problem is I entirely reject the notion that you can control the message. I remember when we had Ken Levine on our show for two ****ing hours, and the headline the next day was an out-of-context quote complaining about Lair's controls. I think we all know that the gaming press is questionable at best (you may consider us in that light as well, I dunno), but ultimately by trying to control the message too much you either make the material so boring as to be irrelevant - equally destructive in my opinion - or you leave the company no latitude to try and correct the problems. And, as I said, in the end the games tend to be judged on their own merits.

I know when I play Too Human, Dyack's comments about PC gaming won't even be a ghost in my mind.

These "developers" driver whatever the hell they like, and they're also the only ones you (meaning everyone) will hear from or listen too. Gears of War content developer #17 isn't making headlines, Denis Dyack is.

That's who I'm talking about as well. Ever since the guys who made Doom got very very rich, it's kind of assumed that if you're a name you're very very rich.

Look, Paris is a vapid waste of space. These guys, if they do have fancy cars, have earned it by writing code at 2 am fueled on Bawls and Funyuns, so it's hardly the same. The guys talking smack, for whatever reasons, have at least earned the right to having an opinion by virtue of earned success. It's not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing. I'd argue with some of them til I'm blue in the face, but they've paid their dues.

Elysium wrote:

said a lot of stuff

Elysium,
I still have to agree with Og and side with my earlier comments. People like Dyack are destructive to their communities. Just like Og said, Dyack can cost his whole company money when he speaks without thinking. You talk of days gone by where the devs and the gamers have close knit ties. That gamer, and those devs, don't exist anymore. Your average gamer is not here on GWJ, they're kids and adults who game part time, but could care less about the community or what's going on. They're average consumers, like any other mass market. Devs and companies, now have mass marketing style plans to push their games into the most hands possible; and if you offend this community, they won't rationalize, they'll just be pissed and not buy your product (having studied marketing, there's been some colossal failures due to offense). I'll prove that theres a disparity from what you think a gamer is (people like us) and reality:

How many millions of copies of Halo3 were sold? How many active (posting once a month or more) users are there on this site? How many overall registered users? Anywhere near Millions? 1 Million? A couple hundred thousand? I'd be willing to be on this site total registered users is anywhere from 10-30k, a mere fraction of the MILLIONS that bought just Halo3.

Who's your gamer market now? It's not us, it's them. Dyack hurts THAT market, no matter what we think.