Jimquisition: Innovation - Gaming's Snake Oil

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Innovation - Gaming's Snake Oil

There's nothing wrong with a game that innovates. There's everything wrong with a game that goes out of its way to innovate without reason.

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Jim,

I don't think many people are on the other side of this issue.

Innovation for the sake of it is bad. It will usually lead to something frivolous that is not properly implemented within the system it exists.
Doing the same thing over and over is bad.
Finding a good balance between the two to keep something fresh yet familiar is usually good.

If people praised innovation for the sake of it, like you postulate in this video, then gamers everywhere would have praised the Wii for its "innovative" controls. That obviously didn't happen.

This sort of seemed like a non-issue to make a video out of.

How do you feel about the Persona series? Looking at the evolution of Persona 3 to Persona 4 to Persona 3 Portable to Persona 4 Golden is a great example of the balance alphamalet is talking about.

Also, I think I'm the only person who loved Mirror's Edge.

THAT'S NOT INOVATION! You're just using a bunch of other people's props! U FAIL!
Also get poor Willem Dafoe some clothes!

alphamalet:
Jim,

I don't think many people are on the other side of this issue.

Not on the escapist at least.

Singularity had problems with graphics, bugs, and other stuff

Darksiders is a stretched game with a paper thin story, especially second part.

Not good examples Jim.

I think the word you're looking for is ambition, innovation should come when someone tries to achieve something that had never been done before for a reason, otherwise it'll be a gimmick like the wiimote.

I'm reminded of the saying "If it ain't broke don't fix it."

Incidentally you know what JRPG battle system I really liked? The one from the Star Ocean games.

jehk:

Also, I think I'm the only person who loved Mirror's Edge.

Trust me, you're not. I love it too. I don't think there are many more experiences in gaming better than going full pelt in that game.

Anyway I agree, Jim. Innovation can be all well and good, but only if it is backed up by quality as well. And like you said, just because something doesn't innovate, doesn't inherently make it bad either. Call Of Duty for example. Doesn't exactly change much from game to game but I still really enjoy them because they are fantastic "popcorn games" to play.

Arrrghhh; Jim what are you doing?

Jim!

Stop making Mirror's Edge look like an example of a bad game!

STAHP!!

Ehrm. Also, Zelda does include some pointless innovations; the last two were on the goddamned Wii, weren't they?

Fun has always been first and foremost for me playing a game, if I'm not having a good time while playing or at the very least intrigued to where the game is taking me next, then it doesn't matter how much it innovates, it's going back for a trade in.

Innovation isn't seen nearly enough in this industry. And I mean "good" innovation that changes the way we look at games. At the time, Gears of War was innovative, Mass Effect was innovative, Bioshock was innovative, Borderlands was innovative, Mark of the Ninja was innovative, and I would say Darksiders was innovative (who else has mashed core mechanics of other games together and done it WELL like Darksiders did).

But if we don't praise games for trying new things then we get situations where Dead Space has a cover system and co-op and micro-transactions.

Whilst I agree with Mr. Sterling's thesis, with out frivolous innovation we would have never got the absolutly off the combat system in Chrono Cross, which is awesome.

jehk:
How do you feel about the Persona series? Looking at the evolution of Persona 3 to Persona 4 to Persona 3 Portable to Persona 4 Golden is a great example of the balance alphamalet is talking about.

Also, I think I'm the only person who loved Mirror's Edge.

Loved? Probably. Liked? Probably not. I liked Mirror's Edge. I would have liked it a hell of a lot more if:
-It had had a better, more robust story.
-It had eschewed it's terribad combat system. Or failing that decided if it wanted you to be the aggressor or if you should be avoiding combat.
-It hadn't forced me to hold the Dualshock 3 perfectly parallel to the ground and perfectly still to avoid countless splatter deaths.

I'm sure there are a few others things things but it's been a while since I played it. You might notice that item #3 is pretty much innovation for innovations sake. My reflexes are excellent but my hands are not so steady and any mechanic that kills me 10+ times during the goddamn tutorial that's introducing said mechanic can fuck right off.

There should be an age gate for the Willem Defoe nudity. Even though it's a mere avatar for the man himself most mortals don't have the fortitude to gaze upon the beauty of Defoe's natural form.

We may not need to call in innovative game good, but we should pretty much always talk about them. When a game does explore new ideas we should at least pay attention to it and find out if it is a good idea. If the idea is good, then even if the game as a whole is bad you can start asking for a game that implements the idea better. If the idea is bad at its core, then we've learned something form the experience. This system of at least trying is how we get those games that lift from several sources and are polished well. Innovate games don't need to be more praised then old ideas with more polish, but they should diffidently be more acknowledged, for better or worse.

On the topic of that, if someone wants to innovate input mechanisms, the place to do it is on the phone/tablet. Sticking a virtual joystick/buttons onscreen and saying "Well, if you don't like it, its not our fault, because extruding screens aren't invented yet." is refusing to innovate in spite of necessity. Same goes with reducing all forms of motion down to one button or platformers to infinite runners to simplify controls: you have a full touchscreen, think of a way to use it.

I just can't get over that on one side of the home/portable fence, everyone is burning piles of money on desperately trying to innovate where it isn't needed, and over on the other side everyone is desperately trying to avoid innovation where it is needed. The irony is astounding.

jehk:
Also, I think I'm the only person who loved Mirror's Edge.

I'm also in the camp of people who loved Mirror's Edge (PC), but only up to about the halfway point. The rubbishy, superfluous combat systems (allegedly forced in by a publisher wary of committing 100% to innovation) made some parts near the end close to unbearable.

Innovation as a marketing buzz word is bad. If you make something innovative just so you can write it on the game's box is pointless.
On the other hand if you want to try some new ideas to see if they work better than the well tested ones - i think its great even if it fails.
I don't see anything wrong in innovation for the sake of innovation. If it's a bad game don't play/buy it. But i can't blame anyone for trying something new they thought was a good idea, even if it turned out to be wrong.
I think that the problem is that the current marketing techniques try to sell you "innovation" as a feature, a "thing" of its own: "buy this game because its innovative". That's BS. You should buy the games you enjoy, and it doesn't matter if its a new idea or another reboot. Games shouldn't be judged by the "amount" of innovation (or lack of it) in them.
As for innovation itself, I don't see why you would rage about unsuccessful games that tried something new. They tried, they failed, who cares?

jehk:
Also, I think I'm the only person who loved Mirror's Edge.

I loved Mirror's Edge as well, it's still the best current gen 3D platformer IMO because it shines where platformers should, which is level design. I actually thought the game wouldn't work because I've always hated platforming in 1st-person. However, the demo sold me on the game in just minutes. I don't even see Mirror's Edge as that innovative to be honest, it's just a really great platformer at it's core. It's just different mainly because it seems like 3D platformers have died off for the most part.

I dunno Jim, a few games have been saved by fresh concepts, or at least made tolerable. I liked Mirrors edge even if it was difficult to play. LA Noire was boring outside the investigations, but those were enough to keep me hooked.

Yeah, don't just throw ideas into a pot and expect a winner, and of course not everything needs to be a new idea. But even bad ideas have their place as cautionary examples, as well as stepping stones towards improving the innovation.

Besides, innovation has become a buzzword now, of course the devs will overuse it, advertise it, and hide behind it.

alphamalet:

I don't think many people are on the other side of this issue.

They appear on here daily, calling for innovation and complaining about the stagnation of games.

Jim also kind of gave examples of games that were praised or panned on their so-called "innovation" or lack thereof despite any other qualities.

I'm not sure more examples are needed.

Oddly enough, "innovation" is one of the justifications Nintendo fans do make of Nintendo products, which runs afoul of Jim's Zelda statements. Of course, they attach such gimmicks external to the core concepts, which may be a saving grace here. Your mileage may vary. Personally, I find Nintendo's style of "innovation" to be tiresome padding.

Hard to disagree with all that. Also really nice to see some love for Lost Odyssey. I love that game, to me it is the only good Jrpg to come out this gen and as a FF fan it was nice to enjoy a Jrpg for a change as I am of the opinion that each FF after X has been the gaming equivalent of Dog shit.

ThingWhatSqueaks:
-It hadn't forced me to hold the Dualshock 3 perfectly parallel to the ground and perfectly still to avoid countless splatter deaths.

I'm sure there are a few others things things but it's been a while since I played it. You might notice that item #3 is pretty much innovation for innovations sake. My reflexes are excellent but my hands are not so steady and any mechanic that kills me 10+ times during the goddamn tutorial that's introducing said mechanic can fuck right off.

You can turn off the stupid sixaxis controls. Only a few games don't let you like Lair (until the patch years later) or Uncharted where throwing grenades took forever because of the blasted sixaxis controls. I've only liked the sixaxis controls in Flower.

This could really be expanded to anything that a developer goes tunnel vision on. Look at Crytek. They're so obsessed with making "system killers" in terms of fidelity that the games ultimately end up as very good looking but ultimately shallow. Elecronic arts with the multiplayer push and we get SimCity 2013. Then we see the dear departed THQ who constantly banked EVERYTHING on single titles.

Tunnel vision is a HORRIBLE thing for developers and publishers. Any time this happens they need to be smacked up the side of the head, not praised for it.

In all fairness, Mirror's Edge is fucking spectacular. Much like Dragon's Dogma, the flaws in the game stem largely from the fact that it is a new IP. If it looks rough in comparison to its contemporaries, it is only because its contemporaries are all fucking sequels. They've already had their rough games and changed what didn't work.

Half Life wasn't a flawless shining jewel. It did things that weren't really being done in shooters at the time(focusing on story being a large part of that). Deus Ex was not without it's problems. Daggerfall was a fucking mess(though so has every other game Bethesda has put out, bless their souls). Just because a game did innovate doesn't mean that innovation is the source of the game's problems.

Now Final Fantasy? Yeah, they don't have an excuse. Squeenix just completely lost sight of what Final Fantasy is. And then too some new concepts just don't pan out. Not every new IP has potential(one reason why publishers are so hesitant to fund them these days). Some games are just shit. Others are merely shit stained. Give Capcom a chance to clean the shit off Dragon's Dogma and we'll have an awesome new series to look forward to. I'd say the same about Mirror's Edge, but I don't think even the most die hard fans of that game are holding their breath for a sequel anymore.

Jim I get your point but the games you're using as examples are a select few. You should just clarify big dumb publishers should not force questionable innovation and leave it at that. Indie developers don't do innovation for your sake. They do it because they want to leave them alone and for godsake leave David Cage the F** alone. Why in the hell would you attack the only major studio still making Adventure games???? They obviously aren't in it for the money. Stop being a wank. Also leave Mirrors edge alone. It was a neat and beautiful game on PC. With Physx on =*drool*.

alphamalet:
Jim,

I don't think many people are on the other side of this issue.

Innovation for the sake of it is bad. It will usually lead to something frivolous that is not properly implemented within the system it exists.
Doing the same thing over and over is bad.
Finding a good balance between the two to keep something fresh yet familiar is usually good.

If people praised innovation for the sake of it, like you postulate in this video, then gamers everywhere would have praised the Wii for its "innovative" controls. That obviously didn't happen.

This sort of seemed like a non-issue to make a video out of.

Considering the pundits and devs I named in the video, not to mention the notes I've already received from watchers disagreeing with this episode, I don't believe the video's as worthless as implied, m'good chap!

Good games require novelty. It's the reason why new games exist. If novelty wasn't important, then we'd be able to just be able to keep playing the old games forever.

The point I think both I and Jim are trying to make, though, is that novelty alone isn't sufficient.

Have to agree, I miss me the good old ATB system for FF ):

I'd like to give the example of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I loved the story and the visuals of that game and it would have been perfect in my eyes except for one thing: The controls. Holy crap the controls were abysmal. The wiimote would get all jacked up in a big fight and the was so difficult to do the most basic things. If that game used a normal controller I would have played it to the finish instead of giving up and watching the rest of the scenes on youtube.

I think this is one of those "ends justify the means" things- where people only complain about someone using an "ends justify the means" philosophy when the ends don't work out as well as expected.

I've actually written a fair amount about the problem of change for change's sake, not in regard to video games but in regard to, well, life. Most of us have met a few would-be revolutionaries who want to shake up or break down "the system" without having any idea why that system came into being in the first place or even what they'd replace the status quo with if given the absolute freedom to do so. If such aspirations are powerless, they're annoying; if they actually come to have some ability to accomplish their aims, they can be incredibly destructive, often to ends that ultimately make little real change at all.

All that said, I think we should give innovation a little bit of slack. I'm not saying we overlook flaws or hold back criticism when something is going the wrong direction, as with something like Lair's control system, and certainly it seems the market is perfectly willing to punish such mis-steps most of the time. But I would hate it if, for example, everyone had overlooked Scribblenauts because the original control system was awful. Sometimes, good changes have to go through some growing pains; sometimes, even, good ideas in bad games have to be re-thought and recycled into good games before their full potential is revealed. We shouldn't be too quick to suggest that something failed for trying something different.

I totally loved Mirror's Edge, I get what you're saying Jim but sometimes experimentation leads to wonderful things too. You've got to be able to strike that balance.

Gizmo1990:
Hard to disagree with all that. Also really nice to see some love for Lost Odyssey. I love that game, to me it is the only good Jrpg to come out this gen and as a FF fan it was nice to enjoy a Jrpg for a change as I am of the opinion that each FF after X has been the gaming equivalent of Dog shit.

Going off topic here, but I disagree considering this past generation gave us Tales of Vesperia, Valkeria Chronicles, and World Ends With You. There is a lot of good out there when you stop holding Final Fantasy as the benchmark.

dbenoy:
Good games require novelty. It's the reason why new games exist. If novelty wasn't important, then we'd be able to just be able to keep playing the old games forever.

The point I think both I and Jim are trying to make, though, is that novelty alone isn't sufficient.

Novelty doesn't have to come from game mechanics though. I could keep playing 2D Castlevania games every year til the end of time if they just kept coming up with new level designs, characters and stories. The new mechanics they keep coming up with though? Meh. Don't really care one way or another.

Authors have managed to make use of the same toolkit for a long time, yet I still find reading books enjoyable. I haven't gotten tired of superhero movies yet despite the fact that they all have more or less the same story with different subplots for the characters involved.

And of course, I still enjoy playing Baldur's Gate, Super Mario Bros 3, A Link to the Past, Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy 6, etc.

It feels like Jim is bashing innovation itself in this one.

Maybe he's sick of all the art-sy fart-sy games but i do believe that innovation is a good thing when combined with brilliant gameplay mechanics, that's what innovation is for after all.

I hate it when people criticise decent games becouse they're not innovative, so thank you for this episode. Good games are sometimes old features with new new polish.

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