Going Gold: Polar Bears and Penguins

Going Gold: Polar Bears and Penguins

The differences between gaming genres are dying. Let them die.

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A pertinent article. I, for one, used to be a die-hard RPG and adventure gamer, shunning first person shooters, and look at me now, playing Mass Effect, gunning down geth and the like with glee. Perhaps the blurring of the lines between the genres isn't such a bad thing as long as we're taking the best of different worlds.

It's not bad that genres are borrowing for each other and benefits many games but I think it is beginning to become somewhat normal and less exciting now.

As you say, it can reduce differentiation between games but I feel it's starting to be used as an alternative to genuine innovation in game mechanics. It's so rare these days that something feels completely different and new. I suppose what I'm saying is, I would like game makers to aspire to creating brand new genres rather than hybrids of previous genres. And the key to this is to draw inspiration from life in general and not just gaming.

Tis a good point. The lines are becoming more and more blurry every year...someting new comes out and it incorporates so many different elements from genre's you dont know where it should fit

I agree it is certainl a great direction for people to go in

The differences are becoming blurry as developers try to mix genres for the sake of innovation and capturing a new niche. It was bound to happen really.

As someone who has always at least dabbled in almost every genre, I totally love the way things are going currently. I want a game to do what works best in service of the developers vision, even if that means going outside of the crutch of genre restrictions. Just to use ME2 as an example, would it have been nearly as good as it is if you stripped out the shooter elements and just rendered that system in old school RPG combat? Absolutely not.

That said, there is nothing wrong with sticking with a traditional genre if it's what works. Once again, it's all about what works to serve the developers vision, genres be damned.

I've noticed increasingly that genres are becoming irrelevant to consumers and designers, but somehow more important to reviewers, to their own detriment.

Just look at ME2 and FFXIII.

SYSTEM SHOCK 2 DID IT FIRST

While the bleed of mechanics from one genre to another is a good thing, undoubtedly, it sometimes comes with a cost. I feel, for example, that Mass Effect 2's RPG mechanics were much fainter than the first's. Less customisation, less control, more combat. Whether that's good or bad is up to the player in front of the screen, but at times, it can go vastly too far. Entire genres can "die out" without being assimilated into the pool. Niche fans suffer. Is that a price worth paying? Depends if it's your niche that's dying, I guess.

Absolutely right, though - quality sells.

I'm interested to see how StarCraft II goes. It's old-school. Really, seriously old-school. Will it get anyone other than fans of the original into it? Remains to be seen.

And if not, is that a good thing? Does it mean that those mechanics are awful, and deserve the scrapheap? Or that tastes have changed, and the complexity and depth of older games shall be lost upon the new wave? I really don't know.

I'm just concerned that some of the finesse, some of the depth of older titles' mechanics will fall away with the genre borders, and that'll be a sad day for fans of those niches.

Cannot agree with the notion that genre's should be left to die solely on the principle of it being called a good thing. It's not a good thing, at all. By merging thing's together, you wash away the things that make each genre by themselves distinct. Mix water and vodka together, and you have neither a simple drink to refresh yourself with, nor something that'll get you buzzed quite so well. While it might have benefits, such as giving you more time to enjoy the evening without getting too wasted too quickly, but to call it better than the pure alternatives is inane. Likewise, an 'Action-RPG' might be good for filling a general fix for gaming, calling either genre by themselves redundant is inane because you're not going to get the distinct feel as you would from a pure-breed of either genre.

Not only that, but this entire 'merging' of genre's is not even a recent thing, and it's certainly not something that's even being done remotely well in this generation. Vampires: Bloodlines. Deus Ex. Heck, if my had my retro-head on, I could probably remember older examples than that, but my brain's failing me right now.

What we're seeing in this age of gaming is a domination of the action genre, to the point that the entire genre itself is mainstream. Developer's have been improving on the action scene far more than they have on other genre's, with CRPG's being outright ignored in favour of RPG-lite mechanics to fit in with any other genre. RTS has managed to survive, but only because that is something that you cannot surely integrate with anything else with reasonably sane results. Adventure still remains to be it's own genre, because it's style cannot be replicated to the faster-paced mechanics of action; it requires thought, patience, and trial and error. Something that, while existing in action games in entirely different format, does not meld hand in hand.

RPG is the only genre being lost here, and not because it's redundant with mechanics that easily fit into the action genre, but because.. I don't know, it simply doesn't bite enough for developer's to try it? They're too hard to make? Instead, games are taking bite-size mechanics from the genre, (The vodka), and just simply mix them into a formula that they know already works perfectly well by itself (The water). See: Mass Effect - Third Person Shooter primarily, with cinematic dialogue and an illusion of choice with some minor class roles. Fallout 3 - A first person shooter with an unneeded 'pause' mechanic and some useless attributes that do little to actually get in your way of pointing the gun, and shooting.

No. Genre's are not merging. There is no blurry line that hasn't always been there. It's simply just a dominant age of the twitch-action scene that's bullying another genre into giving up a few pieces of itself to, quite simply, make developer's look as though they're bringing innovation to the table. Simple as that. Business as bloody usual.

I hope that RPG's don't continue ditching their RPG-ness in the future like this article suggests they are. I have been out of the gaming scene for a little while now but it was RPG's that got me there in the first place. They are my gaming bread and butter; I don't want to wake up a week from now and suddenly see that the butter is gone in favour of other foods like margarine or raspberry jam. I want my butter.

RenegadePacifist:
Cannot agree with [...] Business as bloody usual.

This was a fantastic post. I just have to say that you seem to have your head screwed on correctly.

[sarcastic correction]
There is a typo in the article - it's written Ratchet, R-a-t-c-h-e-t. How dare you. *headdesk*
[/sarcastic correction]

Now with that out of the way, i agree. In this day and age, postmodernism is all the rage. Genres of both story and gameplay not only can, but must be transcended. The future of gaming belongs to games hardly identifiable by genre. RTSes with "direct control" functions, shooters with customization and vast plotlines, RPGs featuring turn-based global conquest...

Of course there still is place for "distilled" examples of genres. Say, for example, an FPS where you just stand off against 10.000 enemies without any plot or customization, or a platformer where you simply platform - no combat or exploration, just a fluid succession of jumps. I'd go as far as to tell we have an undersupply of such games, ones distilling certain genre conventions to perfection.

And on that subject, i'm waiting for an RTS-Shooter or RTS-Platformer hybrid. Would be very intresting to see someone pull that off.

Yeah, good points. Though, as someone above pointed out, this 'merging of genres' isn't completely new as system shock 2 was ahead of the field. Nowadays it seems possible to combine elements from just about any genre, if you tried hard enough. After all, we've had RPG in RTS with Warcraft 3 and DoW2 and RPG in FPS, as the OP mentioned. Then there's Brutal Legend, with thord-person action plus RTS.

I remember an old demo for a RTS game where you could manually control individual units FPS-style - I wonder if someone'll take another stab at that any time soon?

RenegadePacifist:
Cannot agree with the notion that genre's should be left to die solely on the principle of it being called a good thing. It's not a good thing, at all. By merging thing's together, you wash away the things that make each genre by themselves distinct.
snip

And why is that bad? Why should we stifle innovation so that genres can be how they're "supposed" to be? You say that this notion is good only because it's being called good, but from my perspective, you're just saying it's bad because you say it is.

Really, what do we gain from having every game have to fit into one and only one genre? Maybe we make it easier to describe what we like (i.e "I like RPGs" as opposed to "I like Shooters/RPGs, but the ones that play like Mass Effect, not Borderlands"), and maybe it's somewhat easier to find the games that we enjoy, but at the same time, we stifle creativity (What's that RPG dev? You want to find a way to make players feel more involved in combat? Tough luck, you make turn-based RPGs, and that's it) and stall the advancement of the industry for reasons that are at best arbitrary.

The article is confusing to me. I'm not sure what the point of it is. Of course games borrow across genres and have been doing it since Pong.

And SMB and Megaman have such completely different game play that other than they are two dimensional and 8bit I don't see how they can be credibly lumped together.

I don't remember the Extra Punctuation exactly where Yahtzee said every game is a roleplaying game (or every game you play a role, dont remember) and every game is an adventure. There are different aspects of roleplaying games that each game adopts.

The archetypal roleplaying has leveling progression with "hit points" scaling by level. Character class selection which determines your powers both starting and gained with level, and some mechanic of specialization where the player can customize his character deeper than just a class tree.

Then most roleplaying games have equipment choices where a player has many aspects of the game to balance around his class and specialization's strengths and weaknesses.

That means that the player's choices affect how he plays the game, and two different players can have a totally different gameplay experience. And hopefully it means that the designers built the game well enough to account for any possible choices the player could possibly make.

Ideally a roleplaying game would have the players decisions affect the story and not just the gameplay, but very few games had that. Deus Ex was pretty good about that, Planescape Torment, Baldur's Gate 2 maybe?

Finally a roleplaying game gives the player the option to experience the story at his own pace, with lots of distractions along the way. Sadly I can't think of any game past Ultima 7 that truly gives an open world. The Bethesda games try but don't quite do it for me, mainly because the side quests are completely separated from the main story. It makes the world feel immersion breakingly static where it is obvious the locations and npcs only exist for the purpose of the character encountering them.

orannis62:

RenegadePacifist:
Cannot agree with the notion that genre's should be left to die solely on the principle of it being called a good thing. It's not a good thing, at all. By merging thing's together, you wash away the things that make each genre by themselves distinct.
snip

And why is that bad? Why should we stifle innovation so that genres can be how they're "supposed" to be? You say that this notion is good only because it's being called good, but from my perspective, you're just saying it's bad because you say it is.

Really, what do we gain from having every game have to fit into one and only one genre? Maybe we make it easier to describe what we like (i.e "I like RPGs" as opposed to "I like Shooters/RPGs, but the ones that play like Mass Effect, not Borderlands"), and maybe it's somewhat easier to find the games that we enjoy, but at the same time, we stifle creativity (What's that RPG dev? You want to find a way to make players feel more involved in combat? Tough luck, you make turn-based RPGs, and that's it) and stall the advancement of the industry for reasons that are at best arbitrary.

What do we gain from genre's copying bite-size pieces from other genre and feebly sticking them together without ever improving on the mechanics of either genre that the game is supposed to fill? You think a game being limited to a genre stifles creativity and innovation? Horribly incorrect.

Mass Effect 2 brought nothing new to the table. Fallout 3 brought nothing new to the table. Vampires: Bloodlines brought nothing new to the table. Deus Ex brought nothing new to the table.

Halo brought something new to the table.

There. The mix-genre games that I brought up are all fairly strong games in their own right, even if I don't like all of them. None of them handle RPG mechanics as well as a pure RPG. None of them handle action as well as a pure action game. There's nothing new brought to the table, because they're a mix of two averagely-made components that, put together, luckily formed a working game.

Halo, a game that stuck to it's genre and tried to be nothing more, spun the entire genre upside down and, arguably, was the game to push the entire genre mainstream and the highlight of popularity it is today. Gears of War was another step ahead with it's solid cover mechanics, and by providing a camera view that worked exceedingly well. These two games stuck within the confines of being action-packed shooters, and they've done more to push the industry forwards than any genre-mix game around. Heck, if those games weren't around, the incentive for jumping onto the mainstream moneytrain probably wouldn't have been there, and this rush to making 'new' forms of 'RPG's' wouldn't exist. Far flung theory though, and I doubt it - whatever else acting as an easy cash-cow would be snapped up instead. Business, after all.

There's no such thing as stifling creativity. You can be creative within the confines of a box, or you can be just as creative out of it. Freedom, or set rules. You're not limiting anything by keeping to a specific genre. Hell, if anything, by keeping to that genre and focusing on it's merits alone, you're probably going to find a way to push -that- genre forwards, and through that movement, you'll push the gaming industry itself another step forwards.. rather than letting it dance from foot to foot, trying to decide what to call their next level-up-your-guy-and-then-shoot-the-badguys-action-rpg-shooter-extroadinaire!

Business kills creativity. And the business of trying to make every game a 'blurred line' and giving them a 'general' (Read: mainstream) appeal is what's killing the industry's maturity. Once it gets past the "Hey, that looks cool! My game'll be cool with it too!" stage that the industry is currently in, maybe we'll see some actual improvement besides graphical overhauls.

RenegadePacifist:
Cannot agree with the notion that genre's should be left to die solely on the principle of it being called a good thing. It's not a good thing, at all. By merging thing's together, you wash away the things that make each genre by themselves distinct. Mix water and vodka together, and you have neither a simple drink to refresh yourself with, nor something that'll get you buzzed quite so well. While it might have benefits, such as giving you more time to enjoy the evening without getting too wasted too quickly, but to call it better than the pure alternatives is inane. Likewise, an 'Action-RPG' might be good for filling a general fix for gaming, calling either genre by themselves redundant is inane because you're not going to get the distinct feel as you would from a pure-breed of either genre.

Not only that, but this entire 'merging' of genre's is not even a recent thing, and it's certainly not something that's even being done remotely well in this generation. Vampires: Bloodlines. Deus Ex. Heck, if my had my retro-head on, I could probably remember older examples than that, but my brain's failing me right now.

What we're seeing in this age of gaming is a domination of the action genre, to the point that the entire genre itself is mainstream. Developer's have been improving on the action scene far more than they have on other genre's, with CRPG's being outright ignored in favour of RPG-lite mechanics to fit in with any other genre. RTS has managed to survive, but only because that is something that you cannot surely integrate with anything else with reasonably sane results. Adventure still remains to be it's own genre, because it's style cannot be replicated to the faster-paced mechanics of action; it requires thought, patience, and trial and error. Something that, while existing in action games in entirely different format, does not meld hand in hand.

RPG is the only genre being lost here, and not because it's redundant with mechanics that easily fit into the action genre, but because.. I don't know, it simply doesn't bite enough for developer's to try it? They're too hard to make? Instead, games are taking bite-size mechanics from the genre, (The vodka), and just simply mix them into a formula that they know already works perfectly well by itself (The water). See: Mass Effect - Third Person Shooter primarily, with cinematic dialogue and an illusion of choice with some minor class roles. Fallout 3 - A first person shooter with an unneeded 'pause' mechanic and some useless attributes that do little to actually get in your way of pointing the gun, and shooting.

No. Genre's are not merging. There is no blurry line that hasn't always been there. It's simply just a dominant age of the twitch-action scene that's bullying another genre into giving up a few pieces of itself to, quite simply, make developer's look as though they're bringing innovation to the table. Simple as that. Business as bloody usual.

Certainly "pure" RPGs are dying out a bit faster than other "pure" genres, but so what? Every game has RPG elements now. Seriously, they don't even bother to mention in reviews when a game adds RPG elements anymore, because it's so very, very obvious that they will. The reason for this is that when you boil it down to what makes video gamers think of an RPG as "pure", what you have isn't any fun. Scrolling through menus comparing numbers and picking things from menus is work. There have always been things that RPGs have been able to do better than other games because the actual game was so simplistic. They had more room for plot and customization and things of that nature, but now other games are starting to add all that stuff, and so RPGs are just left being the games that aren't fun.

I say this as a person who five years ago would never have believed it. I loved RPGs, hated FPSs and still have the twitch reflexes of a drunk, mentally deficient sloth. Not every game that lets you actually control the action requires twitch reflexes, and in fact big budget twitchy games are dying just as surely as RPGs are. Hardcore twitch games lack mass appeal.

That being said, I don't really believe any genre will actually die. It's just the smaller the niche, the smaller the budget that they can realistically make back. So yeah, Final Fantasy and the like are pretty doomed, and companies like Bioware and Bethesda are making their games into something that can actually succeed, but there will always be new RPGs coming out, because there is a dedicated audience for them. They just won't be the big budget blockbuster titles of the future. You just can't spend $10 million dollars making a game that'll only sell a couple hundred thousand copies. If you want to call that business killing creativity be my guest, but name calling won't change reality.

I find it strange that you mention Dragon Age - a game that revels in being as pure RPG as it gets. Couldn't exactly call it a Mish-mash of genres... and Uncharted 2 never deviates from its cover-shooty-action roots.

I don't really think you can call this combining recent, either- games have been stealing ideas offa other games since they were brought forth from the primordial soup. Ratchet and Clank 2 used a level up system, Jak 2 stole an overworld from GTA, DnD was brought forth from the womb of Turn-based strategy war games... The only games you can really call Pure are the games that were making the genre's in the first place.

I agree, though. Genres are little more than stupid pigeonholes. The Genres we have at the moment, anyway. Honestly, "Roleplaying Game" mechanics have nothing to do with playing a role, the names "Adventure" or "Action-adventure" could apply to nearly every single game ever concieved... and why does "Strategy" only apply to war games? You don't use strategy in anything else?

No, I do not agree at all.

But I'm like some old guy complaining that heavy metal isn't the same as in 1985 - the change has happened and will go on.

Pity.

I'm going to add my voice to the dissenters.

Such things happen from time to time, and we certainly have a glut of them currently. Those who like more defined "genre games" have nothing to worry about though, as we will see such games in the future (and indeed currently).

After all, one of the biggest games due this year is Civilization 5. This is a game which, despite its changes, is still a turn-based strategy game. You couldn't get more of a pure genre game than that.

 

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