This is an old story from the computer game world, but there are lessons here for everyone, even writers.
In 1990, id Software was formed by two men: John Carmack and John Romero. Over the next 6 years, id redefined PC gaming and the first-person shooter genre with games like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. Romero is even credited with coining the term "deathmatch."
(If you have no idea what I'm talking about to this point, here's the summary: Carmack and Romero made really good games; they were kind of a big deal).
The PC gaming world was theirs. Carmack licensed the Quake engine to multiple game developers -- including Valve, who used it to make the even more groundbreaking Half Life. Professional gaming took off with QuakeCon. Everyone wanted to be id.
(Translation: They made lots of money).
But after Quake hit the shelves in 1996, Romero quit (actually he was fired, but he was going to quit anyway). His plans were ambitious, and he felt Carmack and the others were stifling him. Carmack, meanwhile, felt that Romero wasn't realistic.
(The two Johns parted ways).
Carmack -- the technical powerhouse of id -- pushed the envelope with Quake II and Quake III: Arena. Good games, well-received, and very, very pretty. But where they pushed things technically, their general design stayed the same. To the point where Quake III was little more than a deathmatch arena with no substance.
(Carmack's games were technically beautiful, but not very compelling).
|Romero's company released this ad|
months before Christmas.
(Romero thought he didn't need Carmack's technical expertise).
Christmas came and went with no Daikatana. Carmack had released Quake II by then, and Romero realized his masterpiece looked dated. He grabbed the new engine, not realizing it was so different from the one he knew it would require an entire rewrite of his precious game.
(Romero realized technology mattered. He tried to catch up and failed, badly).
Three years later, Daikatana had become a joke. It was made worse when the game was released with outdated graphics, crappy AI, and unforgivable loading times.
(Romero's game was super late, ugly, and impossible to play).
Carmack thought that technical expertise made a game. Romero thought it was creativity and design. The truth is both are necessary to make a quality game.
It's the same in writing (told you there was a lesson). Technical expertise -- your skill with prose, structure, and grammar -- can make for a well-written story, but one that is thoroughly boring to read.
Creative design -- compelling plot, characters, and conflict -- can create a brilliant story, but if the technical aspects aren't there, it will be an unreadable mess.
Don't sacrifice one for the other. You need both to succeed.