Back Off

I wrote earlier about the problems the freedom of choice poses on real-time medium, and how every video game has a sweet spot in which it looks optimal. Polyphony Digital, the developer of the Gran Turismo series, CEO Kazunori Yamauchi must have read that piece since in the newest installment of the series, Gran Turismo 5, the game takes arbitrarily and without any subtlety a portion of that freedom away from the player – a decision motivated by vanity and fear.

See, in certain conditions, GT 5 politely instructs the player to move away from the car before “taking a shot” in the otherwise gorgeous and print-quality-images-producing photo mode. GT 5 is acting like a bodyguard pushing paparazzi away from a declining star who just couldn’t fade away with dignity.

But why on earth GT 5 would pull a stunt like that?

One part of the reason stems definitely from the crazy “over thousand cars” premise, which inevitably led to the standard-premium division, making majority of the car rooster look like something out of Playstation 2, or even a generation earlier. Yes, it’s indeed the standard cars of which GT 5 doesn’t allow people to take pictures up close, which amusingly gives away the fact that even Yamauchi himself acknowledged that there was something fundamentally wrong with putting low-definition assets in a Playstation 3 game with a highest profile to so far.

Second part of the reason can be found from the mere existence of the Internet. Without the Internet, Yamauchi wouldn’t have had any problem whatsoever with people taking unflattering screenshots of his game for their own enjoyment. But thanks to the Internet, no stone is left unturned (and unshared in the age of the Net) when the hardcore audience starts dissecting every possible flaw the much-hyped game may or may not contain. Kill your idols, and so forth.

It’s interesting to see if this kind of screenshot-limiting becomes more of a standard in the future, where developers may turn more paranoid of how their game will appear in screenshots posted in hardcore forums, like NeoGAF. It’s common knowledge that gaming press even today receives strict guidelines from publishers if some poor soul wants to use manually taken screenshots as an illustration, and my understanding is that for that very reason reviewers often end up using glossy PR-shots purely out of convince.

Of course, in the PC side of the gaming, such limiting endeavors would not go far, but as the gaming by and large is constantly drifting towards walled-garden approaches, like gaming consoles and AppStores, a developer-dictated screenshotting could indeed become a valid scenario somewhere down the line.

But let’s hope not.

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