Going Gold

Going Gold: You're Doing It Wrong

Christian Ward | 3 Sep 2008 17:00
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Street Fighter's Ryu and Ken always seemed to have their special moves marked out remarkably well - observe how the down-to-forward quarter circle and punch move that make Ryu do a fireball seems to match the on-screen animation of the move. The same is true for the Shoryuken and Hurricane Kick - the inputs required by the player correspond roughly to the on-screen action. The same is largely true for the "classic" Street Fighter characters like Blanka and Guile - as one would expect from such a long-lived series, the actions just "feel" right.

Compare this with a move from Killer Instinct for the character Fulgore - forward, back, roll from back to forward, weak punch. This launches 3 projectiles. Not quite the same thing, eh? From a challenging and intuitive system for inputting special moves, fighting games became an increasingly tedious exercise in memorization and dexterity that lost its appeal to the mass market. Unless the genre shows it can innovate, this year's fighting game revival will be nothing more than the proverbial dead cat bounce.

Or how about a genre whose day has already faded - the point and click adventure? The home of some of the greatest stories, liveliest characters and wittiest dialog in all of gaming wasted away as it became an obsession for each company not to find different ways to challenge the player, but to put in increasingly stupid and illogical puzzles, until players simply lost patience.

This is hardly something that's unique to the games industry, of course. How many awful movies had bullet time sequences in them after The Matrix, despite having no alternate-reality plot point to fall back on? (Correct answer: nobody cares, even one was more than enough) But with so few innovations in this industry as it is these days, is it asking too much to at least use the ones that we have correctly?

Back when GoldenEye was just a twinkle in the Stamper brothers' eyes, there was always that really annoying kid in school who would always try to sneak a look at the answers on your test paper - not the dumb kids, at least they had good reason and you could feel sorry for them. No, the ones that were always the most annoying were the ones who could have done the exam perfectly fine by themselves, but either lacked the self confidence to do so, or just couldn't be bothered.

Developers who mindlessly copy the innovations of others will end up like that kid - they might be in possession of the right answer, but unless they understand why it's right, they're never going to be able to use it correctly.

Christian Ward works for a major games publisher, and wants to know why they changed the shield/health system from Halo:CE to Halo 2. That system was perfect, damn you.

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