THE ADVENT CALENDER – 6TH DECEMBER

Portal 2 – ‘Is Innovation Lacking in Some Software Houses?’

Portal 2 is a shining example of someone having a good idea and the company around that person screaming “YES I LOVE IT!” and then going onto support and nurture that idea.

So often now in all businesses regardless of industry we find that innovation is generally mocked and beaten down in favour of good old solid “we do it this way and will carry on doing so” attitude that perpetuates the safe and steady route.

When a company decides to turn their back on innovation, something interesting happens within that company, the rate of change inside the company becomes slower than the rate of change outside the company and its competitors who are more than willing to innovate, take over the lead and before long our ‘slow and safe’ company is dead and gone.

Gaming is no different at all. The industry is led by the innovation of some bright stars in the sky who take an idea and drive it to conclusion. Minecraft, Terraria, Portal, Halflife, Doom,
Civilisation etc are all games that had someone behind them pushing their dream and vision in an almost single minded way to create a game worthy of success.

These companies tend to be smaller ones made around the ‘bright star’ whose idea it is and often they act in a very ‘entrepreneur’ fashion, taking the team around them and organising themselves into a spider web format.

Over time more and more people join these organisations and before long, you are no longer a spider web but a starfish. A starfish organisation is one that has arms of expertise, CCP Games is a great example of this as the CEO Hilmar, does not sit in the middle of the product anymore and activity built teams to manage each aspect and service CCP provide, thus producing a starfish organisation.

The interesting difference between the two is that a spider organisation will die if the spider dies (obviously) so if the person with the idea and drive goes, the company falls over. With a starfish, if one of the arms fails, it’s not going to impact the wider business excessively.

With MBA 101 over with, we now turn to Portal 2 – this game really did show what a single, good idea can do and how it can also be reworked into something better. Portal 1 was an excellent game filled with puzzles, humour and also quite a stark back-story. When Chell our leading lady finds some of the ‘bolt’ holes that some of the other test subjects had been living in, it was all very reminiscing of apocalypse movies and again a society in decline, even if it’s a micro-society within the test chambers, it still felt as real as ever.

The simplicity of the action, the fluidity of the motion and the fact Chell never speaks, all lead again to a strong and interesting story that draws us in. Valve have become the masters of making us want to find out more rather than shoving story down our throat.

So in conclusion, the industry must embrace innovation and tools like kick starter seem to be celebrating this concept. Games that have that spark of innovation are worthy of your time and finally, dust of Portal 2 this Christmas… go on., you know you want to.