Fast Forward 2020

Fast Forward 2020
Escaping the Box: Innovation and Genres

Dana Massey | 9 Aug 2005 12:02
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The tired and often-kicked gift horse that is the RPG genre could specifically benefit from innovative thinking. By definition, RPGs offer advancement systems. However, too often, especially in the online medium, this is limited to a bigger stronger character with a bigger sword. Already, some companies have begun to look beyond this. The upcoming Gods and Heroes from Perpetual Entertainment promises to incorporate squad combat, thus taking the step of letting player characters grow from lone warrior to commander of many NPC allies.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine a game where you begin as a single character, alone in the world, who completes mundane tasks for money and food. Eventually, you gain an entourage of characters to aid you in more complex tasks, incorporating tactical and social elements. Over time, this entourage becomes an army, at which time you sit at the head in an RTS-style interface. Then take this a step further, and position the player as the monarch over an entire nation, as in Civilization. Now, combine all of this into an online game. It sounds like a lot of fun, at least in its hand-waving infancy, but some will say that the idea is unwieldy and impossible from a production standpoint, at least on any kind of realistic timeline.

Who are we to declare what will be possible? Gaming breeds imagination. We should be the last industry to be confined by what is "possible." The inability to agree on anything is the hallmark of the gaming community. Some lament that games have become too complex and these people would rather see more basic, simple ideas made into reality. Others advocate larger, more complex games. Unfortunately, gaming suffers from a lack of innovation on both fronts. Sticking to formula, relying on sequels and capitalizing on trends will lead to a decent but unremarkable string of titles. The goal is to identify whom the game is supposed to entertain and do so by any means necessary. Whether this means forgetting all assumptions and making simple, yet fun and addictive games, or cross-genre epics, the effect is the same. History will only remember those that take a chance and create something truly remarkable.

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