by BONZO, HSM editor
New developers are showing interest in Home, which is a testament to the growing interest in what was once a very niche market populated by a limited crowd of individuals – few of whom spent any money. As time has gone by we have developed standards, for the most part, of what we expect from Home development.
New developers face a very tough challenge. Trying to get their foot in the door of a saturated market with very fickle consumers.
- How do you approach it?
- How do you grow your brand in Home when there is a lot of content already?
- Do you begin with virtual goods, in-Home games, virtual spaces or something else?
- If the latter two, where do you begin from there?
- Public games, personal space games, a public space, or another virtual personal space?
- Do you have enough cash to pull off a big debut — and if not, what to build and sell in order to generate the necessary cashflow?
It’s hard to tell which would be more appealing enough to generate some revenue so a as a developer you can continue to bring new content. Development costs aren’t cheap, and so it very much becomes a real gamble, and you hope you produce some new content which sells well so you not only make your money back, but make some profit to reinvest into future developing.
Game Mechanics is entering as an independent brand — albeit with some considerable knowledge of the Home consumer — and they are bringing us something interesting which is deceptively complex in its simplicity. Racing gear hasn’t been explored much, even though it is a billion-dollar industry in the real world and games like Midnight Run, Gran Turismo, and Forza continue to be as popular as they ever were. Racing is something which appeals to a predominantly male mentality, but don’t let gender stereotypes fool you: there are a lot of females into racing. Danica Patrick may be a pioneer in NASCAR, but only three years ago we lost another legend you may never have heard of – Donna Mae Mims.
Donna Mae Mims was the first woman to win the Sports Car Club of America National Championship. This was back in the 1960’s, when the reawakening of the feminist movement was still trying to fight for women’s rights. Racing has been a boy’s club for a long time, but many women like Donna have been throwing their hats in as contenders just as long. So I am sorry, ladies, but if you feel Game Mechanics is starting out with boy-only content, think again. The gear in question is not just for the boys, but for any aficionado of the racing sport.
What they are bringing is also not just about the racing sport itself, but about recreating those nostalgic memories of family outings many of us experiences as children. Baseball is not the only American pastime; I would argue it no longer is the favorite either. From personal experience at least, in my lifetime friends and I attended more football games and racing events than baseball games.
The reason for this is that racing is exciting. Our culture has foregone any mutilation rituals as a rite of passage, and instead traded the driver’s license as a rite of passage to adulthood. Driving represents more than just transportation and mobility; it represents freedom. The ability to go anywhere at any time. And while at some point in our lives it becomes more of a necessity than recreation, it is one of the necessary tasks many of us still take up as recreation. Gas prices be damned: nothing beats a road trip, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t broken the law on a deserted highway by speeding closer or beyond that triple digit on the speedometer.
Beyond the deceptively simple furniture you really have to look at the functionality of it. Many of the furniture items are active items, and there’s a good reason for this. One of the recurring complaints with beds and with chairs is how stiff your avatar looks lying down or sitting on them, especially when it comes to sitting on a chair at a table. These furnishings are more representational than functional, and yet the users want some representational functionality to them.
A chair needs to be some distance away from the table in order for you to be able to sit on it; otherwise it makes the chair unavailable to you. Game Mechanics has taken this restriction and made it a part of the furniture to make it as functional as possible, but this required the items to be active. Fortunately they also took advantage of the ability to allocate only the necessary memory for them, so they don’t take up too many furniture slots. The two clocks, a wall-hanging tire clock and an ornamental steering wheel clock, both keep real time based off your PlayStation system clock. The chairs attached to the tables allow you to sit on them and remain close to the table, with your legs under the table as it should be, but that simple functionality goes a long way to make the appearance a little more realistic.
The most impressive item, by far, are the canvas chairs. These are simple canvas chairs which come in eight color varieties, and two different sizes, with two different varieties of functionality. A simple decorative chair item, and an active variety which lets you add your own name or whatever you want to type on the back rest of the chair. That is a powerful feature, especially since it allows guests to change the text as well. But before you try to get too cute with the wording, there are censors in place to prevent any profanity or lewd writing. Keep it clean. These work great as well for machinimists because it expands the idea of a movie set a little further for the participants. Stroke your egos with these a little because they are very cool functional chairs with a great feature.
Game Mechanics’ debut into Home is a bit more subtle than some of the splashier entries that have come and gone recently, but the furniture itself is actually very interesting. Check it out for yourself.