Extra Punctuation: Building Sequels Badly

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Building Sequels Badly

Yahtzee takes another look at the ongoing problem of videogame sequels.

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Case in point: Final Fantasy. Look at what happened when they stopped creating and started polling: Final Fantasy 12, 13, and 14... None of which deserve numerals. (XI doesn't either, but for different reasons. It's pretty good I guess, so I'll let it slide).

EDIT One thing though:

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

MegaMan 2 and 3.

Wow, a 3 pager. Very nice.

OT: Video game sequels really should only be used to indicate that the game uses some of the same mechanics, while delivering a new story every time.

Though it has to be said, I enjoyed Kingdom Hearts 2 better than Kingdom Hearts. The mechanics were much tighter and the story really was better. You had an actual group you were fighting against that had multiple people with differing perspectives on their objectives instead of a single person vaguely hinted at throughout the game that doesn't even show his face until the end.

Well, sequels can work if they work planned from the beginning, ie. Metal Gear Solid, or Assassin's Creed. But even they can be terrible; so Yahtzee, I agree with you once more!

Too bad fans are the people holding the money

Yeah go on Yathzee, ruin the co-op story before I've even gotten a chance to play it, you asshole. Grrrr.

Agree with the central point though.

I know this is stretching it on the issue of "same characters", but The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is an adequate example of a rushed sequel churned out in direct response to the former game's success, where both plot and game mechanics can be argued to be superiour (I know there are a lot of OOT supporters out there disagreeing with me on this point. I'm not attempting to start an OOT vs MM discussion so please keep calm).

Sometimes rushed sequels can prove a blessing in disguise. Just saying.

I see your points with sequels, and while I don't always agree that there should be no sequel, I understand your frustration with how most sequels are done. And while the setup with Portal 2 commits the same sins as BioShock 2 and God of War 2, it's the rest of the story that made it up for me. It's true Portal 1's story was subtlely introduced as the story progressed and that's what delivers the surprise that has attracted its rabid following. But Portal 2 doesn't attempt to mimic the surprise from the predecessor (much like Modern Warfare 2 killing your protagonist about three times). Instead, Portal 2 decides to tell a new story that shows both the before and after of the events of Portal 1. And what makes this story so damn entertaining is how unbelievably well written it is.

Now you do have a point that this is a far more story-driven game than the first one. But that point doesn't bother me. Actually, it's what made me embrace and recommend Portal 2. The first game was a fun little puzzle game. The second takes that premise and expands a whole new universe based on that concept while retaining the basic gameplay elements from the first. This was very similar to Half-Life 2's evolution from Half-life 1, only difference between the two series is that one had a major graphical overhaul.

Just imagine what one could do if one would start a "community effort" to rehabilitate the games industry and there would be as much people that'd "care" about it (and spent the same amount of money on it) as people that buy Call of Duty every year... one could systematically buy itself into huge heartless publishers like Activision and EA by acquiring stock and would have both a voice inside the company as a community and influence over both business decisions and products while one acquires percentages aswell as an obscene amount of press coverage about something unprecedented and wonderful happening... ah well one can dream

I disagree with your point on sequels since for me personally 'more of the same' can be good as well.

I do agree strongly with the other point though: fans are stupid and wrong. Always.

You make a lot of assumptions, such that the writers themselves didn't want Glados back, and that had been the intended story from the get go. You also seem bothered by the fact that Valve didn't think the core of Portal was the same one you did.

3-pager!
I must agree with Yahtzee. Although I think there are a lot of people out there touting Portal 2 as better than the first.
The first game was elegant in its simplicity and uniqueness. It had great subtle dark comedy that made it more endearing. Then the waves of fans took hold of it and turned it in to the worst never-ending internet gaming joke/quote monstrosity in recent history.
Portal 2 wasn't bad by any means, but it completely lost its subtlety and hit almost every check mark in the Hollywood sequel checklist. You liked one sarcastic computer with an inferiority complex? Then how about TWO sarcastic computers with inferiority complexes! More explosions? Guy with British accent for comic relief? Constant nods to things from the first movie that only wind up making them less special?
You got it!
It doesn't matter if the stupid "cake" references finally died, because now we have space potatoes!

I wouldn't hold up Portal 2 as an example of how NOT to do sequels (if most sequels were as good as it, that would be great), but it is a good example of how to completely overdo everything that made the first game so charming and unique.

I also thought GLADoS never seemed like a credible threat, but I wasn't sure if that was the joke, or if it was just my interpretation.
I also thought she didn't seem like a threat in the second- after all, you already know the punchline.
Wheatley was more interesting in that respect, but kind of felt tacked on to me.

But yeah, as you said, you've already said this all before.
Perhaps instead of Portal 2, there should have just been some level packs with new mechanics- like Portal Prelude.

The "surprise!" argument that's supposed to go in Portal's favour (fuck you Chrome, there is a U in there) doesn't really make sense to me - it seems to work on about the same logic as a game being deemed bad because of the unbearable amounts of hype. And as well all know, that's stupid.

As for Glados not being the same in Portal 2, its implied throughout Portal that she did murder everyone in the facility, whilst her methods to psychologically 'undermine' Chell remain about the same.

I can see the argument about story taking over, but I felt they were simply better balanced, and that the moments where the story 'interrupts' are actually moments used to pace the game and ease your puzzle-induced migraine.

And most people and fans are saying its better than the first.

And BioShock 2 is better than BioShock.

*runs away*

I can agree with most of these I think one Game that tried to do a non-fan sequel was Dragon Age, they chaned the region, the character and then spend some time referring bck to what happened depending on your save file.

However DA:II suffered from 1 major Flaw. That it weas rushed out so the number of level models was pathetic. People sometimes rag on thew combat but moving from DA:O on the PC to DA:II on the PS3 I prefer the flow and tightness of the controls

Yahtzee, in the interest of talking about sequels...what do you think of Alex Mercer from Prototype being made an antagonist in Prototype 2?

Argh, yes. I hate when stuff is tacked onto a story once it's ended.

This is more a complaint of mine in regards to movies and so on than to games, but it still applies. It almost always ends badly.

Ok, well I don't know what you guys are talking about, because I enjoyed Portal 2 more than Portal 1. I'm not going to qualify this statement: anything I add people will just use that as a reason why I didn't like Portal 1 as much: Oh, see you (didn't) like x, so that's why you're wrong, hurr durr. I'll just say Portal 2 entertained me lots more than Portal 1.

If you made a list of all the awesome characters in fiction whose character arcs were hijacked to pander to fans, it would probably circle the earth. It's been an issue for over a century at least, if we consider Sherlock Holmes readers as the first manifestation of modern fanboys.

Absolutely agree on the "fans being idiots" issue. The development and execution of art and entertainment should be handled by the guys with all the skill and creativity, not the people who are just mindlessly clamoring for more samey-ness.

qbanknight:
I see your points with sequels, and while I don't always agree that there should be no sequel, I understand your frustration with how most sequels are done. And while the setup with Portal 2 commits the same sins as BioShock 2 and God of War 2, it's the rest of the story that made it up for me. It's true Portal 1's story was subtlely introduced as the story progressed and that's what delivers the surprise that has attracted its rabid following. But Portal 2 doesn't attempt to mimic the surprise from the predecessor (much like Modern Warfare 2 killing your protagonist about three times). Instead, Portal 2 decides to tell a new story that shows both the before and after of the events of Portal 1. And what makes this story so damn entertaining is how unbelievably well written it is.

Now you do have a point that this is a far more story-driven game than the first one. But that point doesn't bother me. Actually, it's what made me embrace and recommend Portal 2. The first game was a fun little puzzle game. The second takes that premise and expands a whole new universe based on that concept while retaining the basic gameplay elements from the first. This was very similar to Half-Life 2's evolution from Half-life 1, only difference between the two series is that one had a major graphical overhaul.

I'd say the original Half-life was much more story driven than the original portal. Either way, the major issue here seems to be how much Portal 2 focuses on back story, compared to the Half-life franchise, which never really takes time to explicitly explain what's happened in Gordon's absence, so there's still a sense of mystery and ambiguity.

Vivendel:
I know this is stretching it on the issue of "same characters", but The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is an adequate example of a rushed sequel churned out in direct response to the former game's success, where both plot and game mechanics can be argued to be superiour (I know there are a lot of OOT supporters out there disagreeing with me on this point. I'm not attempting to start an OOT vs MM discussion so please keep calm).

Sometimes rushed sequels can prove a blessing in disguise. Just saying.

I was actually gonna use Ocarina of Time as an example of a sequel to a game that didn't need one story wise yet had the same characters (Link to the Past) but is quite honestly a better game all things considered (and that is saying a lot because LttP was fantastic). And then Majora's Mask was an example of what Yahtzee was talking about where the sequel was again not needed in regards to story yet had the same main character and some of the uncanny valley townspeople but was easily the weakest and worst zelda game (case and point: introduction of Tingle, entire game is timed, there is Tingle, if you dont know to play the song of time backwards trick combined with using the camera to save dungeon progress you can't beat the game, Tingle is in it) until those gameboy games that everyone has wiped from their memory (some nonsense about seasons and ages). However, Wind Waker again takes Ocarina of Time and creates from it a sequel that is actually a good game, if not better than the forerunner. But with Zelda games the true enemy is not the fans, it's Shigeru Miyamoto because he was quoted as saying "One thing about my game design is that I never try to look for what people want and then try to make that game design." Thus it is proven irrefutably that he is to blame for all the shitty nintendo sequals at large, not fans.

If you are a fan, all your ideas of what you want in a sequel are wrong so you should shut your stupid mouths and let the creators create.

Or developers should just have the good sense not to listen to them. Grow some balls, developers. Don't be pussies like Sucker Punch who decided to change new Cole (who apparently "looked like a douchebag") back to old Cole (who definitely looked like a douchebag) because fans cried a whole lot. Not that it will really make a difference because regardless of whether or not the character LOOKS like a douchebag, he always ACTED like a douchebag and thus is a douchebag regardless of appearance. So you might as well drop a few testicles and stick with the character design you wanted instead of bowing to whining fans.

2xDouble:
One thing though:

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

MegaMan 2 and 3.

I thought of that too, but when you consider that Wily gets away, that is leaving it open for a sequel. Now, maybe Mega Man 7...

asbrandr:
But with Zelda games the true enemy is not the fans, it's Shigeru Miyamoto because he was quoted as saying "One thing about my game design is that I never try to look for what people want and then try to make that game design." Thus it is proven irrefutably that he is to blame for all the shitty nintendo sequals at large, not fans.

Source please. I don't believe that for a second. The Zelda series has been nothing but bowing to fans and them still being wankers as far as recent games go. The Wind Waker was too cartoony and nobody wanted Link to be a kid despite Link always having been a kid except in Zelda 2 and Ocarina of Time previously. So now we get Twilight Princes where Link is an adult and the style is not cartoon, and now it's too dark and waaaah it sucks. Also we thought The Wind Waker was so much better as it was nice and colorful; yes that's right, we like The Wind Waker now. So now they're going with an adult Link but more colorful style and the game isn't even out yet and people are bitching about the colors and such things. They should make it look more like Twilight Princes; yes we love that game now too.

Zelda is an example of another franchise where the developers should tell the fans to shut the fuck up and make the game they want because fans will never be happy.
(For the record, I got The Wind Waker and Twilight Princes when they both came out. I loved them both then and I still love them both now. And Skyward Sword looks awesome.)

The Yahtz is a critic and makes critic points. They aren't wrong by any means, but not _everything_ has to be this amazing work of art, and sometimes if you try to hard to be original you end up with a unique terrible game.

Case in point, compare Portal 2 to Mirrors Edge. Mirrors Edge was trying very hard to be original, to not be like other games, and it was kind of terrible because sometimes the conventions set up in other games are there for a reason. Portal 2 doesn't try to be original or new, but is an almost textbook example of good game design.

There is a place in my heart for good sequels. And there are good sequels, just compare Portal 2 to Bioshock 2.

2xDouble:
Case in point: Final Fantasy. Look at what happened when they stopped creating and started polling: Final Fantasy 12, 13, and 14... None of which deserve numerals. (XI doesn't either, but for different reasons. It's pretty good I guess, so I'll let it slide).

EDIT One thing though:

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

MegaMan 2 and 3.

You forgot super Mario 3. I wasn't a fan of 2. Although the story here is jump jump. How about Yoshi island that is a prequel that is darn good...but then there is Yoshi Story so I don't know. Story kills things? If redoing a game with updates to tech redo the plot? Ala the first 3-4 Zelda's that were awesome. Was star fox 64 a sequel to the super Nintendo one?

Ok yahtzee they don't make good sequels anymore. In the day that technologies made decent upgrades,8 to 16 to 64 bit, stories were worth retelling with more polygons and better controls.

Hooray for Animal Farm reference!

Anyway, I actually thought Portal 2 was better than its predecessor in every way, and that includes the story. Yes, even the single player campaign. I agree with you about the whole argument that a good sequel should treat the original as a sort of jumping-off point, but I feel like that's pretty much what Portal 2 did.

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

Timesplitters: Future Perfect might fall under those restraints.

JaymesFogarty:
Well, sequels can work if they work planned from the beginning, ie. Metal Gear Solid, or Assassin's Creed. But even they can be terrible; so Yahtzee, I agree with you once more!

MGS wasn't planned as a series from the beginning. I should know, I'm a local MGS rabid fanboy. The only reason Hideo kept making them was because either fans or Konami kept bugging him to make them or reminding him how awesome Snake was. After each game, he said it was hopefully the last.

His first real reaction to this was actually MGS2, where he practically trolled the fanbase.

Recently, he's announced to compromise with us rabid fans, and while he won't be expanding anymore on Solid Snake, he says there are many possibilities for Big Boss, who, in all fairness, is much more badass anyway. :)

On topic, awesome read as usual, Yahtzee!

I can see where you're coming from, Yahtzee, and I suppose I essentially agree with you.
Everything has its pros and cons, however. When you first introduced the idea of sequels being banned, you said we'd unfortunately have to sacrifice some good titles. I think Half-Life 2 and Thief 2 were among them, and while I don't know whether either one of them fulfill the requirements of your question (i.e. expanding on the first game with the same characters *and* having a better story), but I'm sure it brought new things to the table that you'd regret never being witness to.

To illustrate my point using my own opinion, let me tell you that I liked the story of Portal 2 more than that of Portal 1. I did not like Portal 1 being a minimalist game where the puzzles were loosely connected with a simple plot - I suppose my tastes just lie elsewhere. On the other hand, I liked the story and ending of Portal 2 because of the development of both GLaDOS' character and her relationship with Chell. GLaDOS "coming to terms" with things and letting Chell go was how I thought the story of Portal should have ended, because GLaDOS's bipolarity and struggle with emotional matters is what FUELS the story. Sure the original game worked well on its own, but for me, it would've been a shame if the sequel hadn't been made. I think if the contribution is of such magnitude, they should go for a sequel, even if it's with the same characters and can't compare to the original. We don't necessarily NEED to compare it to the original in the first place.

Yahtzhee:
I mean, prove me wrong. Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first.

Baldur's Gate 2.

Same characters, continuation of the story, but it was a continuation that occurred naturally; you could beat BG1 and be left satisfied that the story ends right there.

In general though, that rule applies to just about everything made recently.
It's rather strange that fan-made games (until they get slapped with Cease-&-Desist) tend to be on par with the source material, while fan-demanded games turn into that fore-mentioned slop.

Fans are idiots in the purest sense: en masse, we form a creature of pure id. I agree with this completely.

But what's the point of appealing to our self control or dignity when we have none? Yahtzee's message is best directed at the publishers.

You make several good compelling arguments as usual and your reasons and thinking is no doubt sound but at the end of the day none of this more rational thought is going to make me like portal 2 any less than I do now. My gut tells me perhaps more than my head that I enjoyed Portal 2 tremendously, more so than the first game. I guess I'm just a dumb, stupid, moronic fan but then I don't take myself so seriously that I can't just laugh all that nonsense off and enjoy the game for what it is rather than what it could have been or should have been or just not have been at all in your opinion.

In my own humble opinion Portal 2 expanded upon the first game, positively, in every way; it was funnier, it had a more expansive story, puzzles were more varied, environments were less repetitive and the expansion of characters helped flesh out the 'portal world' and make it a more compelling experience, for me. The first portal was an experiment, a very very successful and memorable one; it's sequel is the game one can imagine the original would have been if portal had been a fully-fledged game from the beginning.

I didn't ask anything from Portal 2 apart from it being a good game and preserving what made the original special. I ask this literally from any sequel to a game I love.

And y'know what? I agree with what you're trying to prove in the article, however I still believe you're placing your precious Portal on a bit too high of a pedestal here. I realize that Portal 1 had literally all it needed to be great but honestly, if you think they didn't need an incentive to slap that big fat 2 on the box of this game with the intents of making this more than just an expansion pack, you might have been approaching this game the wrong way. I don't think there was any doubt that this would stretch beyond the mold and apply the Portal mechanic to more irregular situations and wider scales. In that regard I'd have to say Portal 2 shines. It's narrative was unparalleled, it had me on the edge and the writing was hilarious, witty and captivating. It couldn't rely anymore on game play innovation only and I think everyone knew that when entering the game.

In my eyes it did exactly what a sequel should have done. Expand on everything and improve to the brim without alienating its concept. The game is far easier of course, but setting apart the fact that more levels were about hiding the portal surfaces, I'd almost call it safer to say that we're just far more used to thinking with portals at this point.

LAN MAC:
Yahtzee, in the interest of talking about sequels...what do you think of Alex Mercer from Prototype being made an antagonist in Prototype 2?

Wasn't he just an emotagonist in the original Prototype.

Towards the OT.I can name quite a few good sequels that actually try to upgrade the game they are sequels to.Either furthering a story without ruining the entire plot or having loosely related characters in the same setting like in the original game.And they also upgrade or try to use the first one as a stepping stone rather than a bar.

While i did enjoy portal 2 just as much as the first i agree for most of what you said. Developers really do just need to ignore fans most of the time. But i found the lack of connection between Crysis 1 and 2 destroyed any interest in playing it past the first few hours. (other things put me off it too)

Maybe this wouldnt have been as bad if they didnt leave such an open ending in the first and the main character in the second wasnt pointlesly silent (Nomad wasnt exactly offencive)

(crysis 2 SPOILERS)
But it just really pissed me off that the only connection shot himself in the head 5 minutes in. and from what i understand Nomad and Psyco get maybe one very brief mention (i have been told). I'm sat there wondering who the hell these poeple are im shooting?. why do the aliens look different? and it just feels like a kick in the balls to fans of the first.

I know crysis doesnt have the best story in the world, but that game is one and probably the only example where i think little or no connection is a bad thing. Other than that developers should go nuts with your idea. Fans for the most point (including me) don't know what they want.

This is the first time I think I can outright say you are wrong. As a huge fan of Portal 2 and after seeing the hundreds of threads on portal 2, as well as the internets opinion, I think it can be agreed upon by most people that Portal 2 was better than Portal 1. I know not everyone will agree that it was better but everyone can see that it's loved. For good reason too, Wheatley is possibly the greatest character in any game I've played and although GlaDos was different the reasons are described in the game (She replayed the last 5 seconds of her life for 99999...years).

This time Yahtzee, and for perhaps the first time, you are completely wrong in my opinion.

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