Rarely do you get a case where a developer is as interesting as the games he creates. Yeah, I know, most people on the Internet would know the big names behind their favorites, but with no added spice to it. This indie dev, Phil Fish, has all the spice and controversy you could ever want and more. To top it all off? His only game released (Fez) is actually good!
This article is not directly related to Nintendo, but I thought I might want to put my thoughts out seeing as Fez is back in the spotlight after being announced for multiple other platforms earlier this month.
In the beginning (2008), there was this little software development company called Polytron Corporation, run by Phil Fish (picture above). He looks like a pretty sturdy guy, and since Fez was continuously being shown off at games conventions, it had garnered a lot of hype and shown a lot of promise, to the point of receiving several video games awards even before its release! It seemed like nothing could go wrong for Fez, apart from a protracted development cycle that saw the game get pushed back from early 2010, to early 2011, and finally to mid 2012. The general feedback was overwhelmingly positive and it was set to be a big hit. But something happened that would have an impact on both this endearing masterpiece and its creator.
One month before Fez was to be released, at a question and answer session with Phil Fish at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2012, a Japanese developer (Makoto Goto, from Square Enix) stood up to ask him a question, and the above was the response, along with a whole list of criticisms about Japanese games, effectively humiliating the Japanese developer in front of everyone in the room, and forever sealed Fish's image in the eyes of the internet-savvy gamer, especially those who enjoyed Japanese games, as an arrogant, anti-Japanese, crude asshole.
This would have been the end of the story for most people.
Few actually tracked down the subsequent conversations that went on regarding the issue. The above comment is an over-generalization of what Fish actually meant; that 'modern' Japanese games had many design flaws that needed fixing. In his Twitter he mentions being a big fan of older Japanese games.
As much as I am a huge fan of Japanese games (no, not limiting myself to just Nintendo), I admit that Japanese game design is indeed stagnating and becoming less and less relevant in a console cycle where Western games are exerting more influence. It's a whole article on its own and I won't touch on it now, but what I'm saying is, maybe Fish does have a point, a point which is not brought up very often, and even less so in this rough manner, due to the fond memories many people have with Japanese games. I am not defending his opinion, but even if it was completely true, he should have been more professional when saying it. What he said and what he posts on Twitter lacks any tact or mannerism whatsoever.
But on the other side of the coin there is a tweet to Goto that reads:
So, issue dead and buried? All water under the bridge? Yeah, no. Gamers are still bitter over the harsh remarks made by Fish even though it's already been over a year since that fateful day, and the announcement that Fez will be ported to everything dredged the issue, and Fish, back up.
A few more statements from Fish that Fez would not be coming to 3DS or Wii U stirred things up even more. Something about not being able to earn any profits from making downloadable games, and that the 3D on the 3DS was not needed to display the game. There is also talks about a Vita version.
Make of it what you will
With his already bad reputation, people are now claiming Fish to be anti-Nintendo. Some of the best bits happened just yesterday too. Having just played Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on 3DS, this was his response:
started playing my first monster hunter game last night. on 3DS. it's not exactly playable without that circle pad pro atrocity... i don't understand. why would you even release a game like that on a platform like that? why is it not out on let's say... vita? you know, the one where you could control the camera. it's too bad because MH looks like it's basically phantasy star online but not in space. and i love me some PSO. the whole entire thing was a mistake if you ask me.March 2012 all over again, but this time all guns aimed at Nintendo specifically. The difference now that this looks like two paragraphs full of trollbait, but coming from a person who's made harsh comments of a similar nature in the past, once again the gamer community at large is up in arms. Few hours later we get another flip.
also, im so sick of this dual-screen clamshell bullsh*t. a 2nd screen adds NOTHING. it's a gimmick. 3D is a gimmick. it's too bad the vita isnt a bigger hit because hardware wise it's PERFECT. it has ONE AWESOME SCREEN, and TWO JOYSTICKS. there's never been a single DS or 3DS that didnt make me go "i wish this was on a single screen". and i've never played any game ever anywhere where i was like "i wish this had a 2nd screen". and absolutely f@$#ing NOBODY ever went "i wish this had 2nd screen that is smaller and a different aspect ration and touch but not 3D" the gameboy micro was the best handheld ever. i wish nintendo would just make a slightly bigger more powerful GBAM-type thing.
Uh, let's see here. One, Monster Hunter can indeed be controlled with one analog stick (see: PSP versions) and two, disliking the clamshell dual-screen design and control setup doesn't leave much else in terms of hardware to like isn't there? Fish has a lot to explain for, and all because he once again repeated his same inflammatory comments without any other feedback. Not helping that generally we've never heard any kind of positive comments Fish had for Nintendo before.
So, all this adds up, what do people do? Boycott Fez and all subsequent games this man produces? Your loss, buddy. Even though it's not coming out on a Nintendo platform, it is coming out on what I'm using to type this article, and by any means possible I will try to play it. As much as a mean elitist bastard Fish may be, I will judge the game individually from him, and play it because it is fun, not because the person who made it has a terrible attitude.
As for the person himself...I'm going to try to stay as neutral as possible about him, though the remarks he's been making over the past few days have been nothing short of atrocious. Does he really mean it, or is he intentionally trying to get a response from the gaming community? He has mentioned before that 'the gaming community is very easily offended'. I won't lie, this holds true especially for the Nintendo fanboys.
This is trollbait. He said so himself.
I've been trying to forgive him in my mind for the past year especially after Fez came out and I really liked the looks of the game. This round just makes it more difficult for me. If he means what he said about the DS and 3DS, Fish has a real problem. If he doesn't, it reeks of unprofessionalism, arrogance and troll behavior, something that should not be character traits of a game developer looking for support. And support is the one thing this person needs the most, especially if he plans to start a new project. No one in their right mind would want to fully support a game coming from a potty mouth like Fish even though the game is excellent.
I will still play Fez, but my support for Fish himself is very wavy, even if he didn't mean what he said, he said it in a terrible way, and that is not going to get him very far despite his talent at making games. Applies to any corporate atmosphere; manners and professionalism are of utmost importance in getting connections and support. Even if you don't think you need it, you need it, and it will come back to bite you in the ass some day.
Another shot because I love Gomez. He's just god damn adorable!
The JP developer, Makoto Goto? He did what any honorable person would do; stunned as he was during the moment where he was insulted straight to his face (it was his first time out of the country for an event like this, and the first question he has ever posed to a Western dev panel), in an impromptu meeting with Brian Ashcraft from Kotaku, he actually wanted to say 'thank you' to Fish for his comments, and that it was a wake-up all that "really motivated Japanese game creators to work harder". Now that's class.