Son of Return to the Sequel II

Son of Return to the Sequel II

Sequels are a necessary part of the gaming business, but that doesn't mean they have to be boring rehashes of the Same Old Thing.

Permalink

I stopped reading momentarily after the first sentence. Fatal Frame IV? Excuse me? Who, what, where, how, and of course when!? I swear, how these things manage to slip past me...

And now, back to reading the article...

Fantastic ending, and your thought on Max Payne is almost the exact same argument I'd make for the television series 24.

Hm, i just saw an academic lecture today by a guy named "shamus," but he spells it seamus.

Bose einstien condensates are teh sexxar

I find the cliff hanger approach doesn't work because instead of buying the squeal, I just look it up on Wikipedia.

Some ideas work well to serialize as sequels, others do not, and even those that do serialize, they usually have a limited lifetime over which it makes sense to do so. The problem that I see is that game developers are getting to the point where they are writing a Piers Anthony series; the story ended after the first, second, or third book, yet the series continues to drag on for 3-4 more books. The trick is knowing when it's time to stop and come up with something new.

Even so being, I do wonder about the concept of episodic gaming. Granted this flies in the face of the author's complaint about cliff-hanger endings, but the intent is not to simply bilk the market for cash; rather the intent is to allow the creation of ever larger, highly detailed game worlds while allowing the developer to better control cost and risk. Of course, this requires the gamer to understand going into the game that he is not supposed to see a completely conclusive ending until some later point.

In my opinion, the current model of a singular effort to create a singular, monolithic epic game has reached the limits of applicability to create compelling gaming experiences for current gamers. Basically, a game developer only has so many resources available over a given time period, so only just so much can be done. Segmenting the game into episodes can help the developer create a focused, detailed experience at each episode because the entirety of the game world does not have to be created all at once. Instead, the developer can reveal the world in expanding layers that only have to be created when needed. Also, the developer can develop the game and its world only as far as the market supports, rather than having to bet-the-farm with every game. This can help the developer better control the cost and risk of creating extremely large game worlds.

Of course, episodic gaming does not work with every game, but it may work with a number of games, particularly RPGs.

In the subject of endings which you addressed, I think this is something Mass Effect did well. They give you a cliffhanger, but they also rap up the story of Saren and Sovereign in a satisfying way.

orannis62:
In the subject of endings which you addressed, I think this is something Mass Effect did well. They give you a cliffhanger, but they also rap up the story of Saren and Sovereign in a satisfying way.

This is true. One of the only games that has both cliffhangery-nonsense and resolution.

That Max Payne idea is actually really good... having a single character that isn't recycled as they are reinvented each game.

Look, Mr. Young, I was as pissed-off as you about the ending to Neverwinter Nights 2, but I implore you to pick up the Mask of the Betrayer expansion. It nails the sequel idea you liked so much about the Final Fantasy franchise, but still manages to involve your character without needing the any particular detail from the ending to function, and still deliver one of the best RPG stories since Torment. Really.

Shamus Young:
I was really into the plot of Dreamfall at the time, but that was back in 2006. When the game ended, I was angry and frustrated with the lack of closure. I might have been willing to run out and buy the sequel right then, but today? I've forgotten most of it. If the sequel - which still doesn't exist - were to appear in my lap right now, I wouldn't have any great urge to play it. I can't remember the characters, the sub plots, or even what was going on when the story was yanked away. I don't care anymore. And I certainly wouldn't want to open myself up to the chance that I would get re-invested in the world, only to be frustrated yet again.

As a dedicated Song of Ice & Fire fan, I've learned to deal with insane amounts of time between each installment. So... I didn't mind Dreamfall's cliffhanger at all.

meatloaf231:

orannis62:
In the subject of endings which you addressed, I think this is something Mass Effect did well. They give you a cliffhanger, but they also rap up the story of Saren and Sovereign in a satisfying way.

This is true. One of the only games that has both cliffhangery-nonsense and resolution.

That Max Payne idea is actually really good... having a single character that isn't recycled as they are reinvented each game.

I was happy with the ending to Mass Effect as well. It wrapped up the immediate threat. I didn't mind that they hinted at bigger problems, as long as I get to finish what I started in THIS game.

And I'd love it if we got another Max Payne game. I'm really surprised they didn't try to put out a new one to coincide with the movie.

Thank you Mr. Young, I'm glad someone here actually gets that not all sequels are bad, some are yes, and cliff hanger endings need to DIE!

Granted originality is good, but there's nothing wrong with a refined formula, that is taking the ideas of the first title, but getting them right this time.

The Final Fantasy series is almost unique in how it does sequels. You get the namesake sequels: I - XII, which keep similar names and general game play (some will face the inevitable change.) But then you got the strange sub-series sequels, spin-offs, and prequels (X-2, FFXII Revenant Wings, FFVII Crisis Core, etc.)

geizr:
Of course, this requires the gamer to understand going into the game that he is not supposed to see a completely conclusive ending until some later point.
I'm looking at you, Valve.

geizr:
In my opinion, the current model of a singular effort to create a singular, monolithic epic game has reached the limits of applicability to create compelling gaming experiences for current gamers.

I disagree. The problem here is risk. VERY few companies will actually put forth an effort to create something original, instead rehashing tried-and-true game play with some tacked on story or different camera position.

Unless by singular you mean individual. Then that is a whole different set of problems.

[quote="Shamus Young" post="6.94052.1464430"]And I'd love it if we got another Max Payne game. I'm really surprised they didn't try to put out a new one to coincide with the movie.

A game based movie based game....That seems oddly perplexing,like a chocolate layer cake where one layer is beef. You know something definitely went wrong in the process, and are rather nervous about trying it.

DeadlyYellow:
A game based movie based game....That seems oddly perplexing,like a chocolate layer cake where one layer is beef. You know something definitely went wrong in the process, and are rather nervous about trying it.

There was Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game, so it's been done before at least once.

First, strangely it sounds like the perfect sort of sequel has been mastered by EA's Madden series...

Second, episodic gaming is a completely different beast, primarily because you know what you're getting into when you buy it. It's episodic. Don't expect everything to be resolved when you're done. Do expect the next episode to come out soon. Do be disappointed when it doesn't (that would be the half-life reference...)

As for NWN2: I see in my mind's eye a vision of a room, and in that room is a marketing manager and the lead developer of NWN2, sometime during the development process:
Manager: So, we need to figure out what the ending of this game is going to be like.
Developer: Well, I was thinking
M: and we need to really reinforce our RPG roots here.
D: OK, sounds good, we could
M: So what we need is a classic RPG-ish ending.
D: Alright, well there isn't really
M: Think of the one most memorable tabletop D&D pen-and-paper campaign ending that you've ever heard... what was it that happened?
D: Um... Rocks fall, everyone dies...
M: Great! Go with that! Someone told me we should put a gazebo in there too, if you can hack it... maybe as a final boss? Anyhow, let me know when you've got it all coded up. this is gonna rock!
D: but... but... I was
M: (leaves)

Shamus Young:
And I'd love it if we got another Max Payne game. I'm really surprised they didn't try to put out a new one to coincide with the movie.

Aye, but only if they don't try to make him look like Marky Mark to coincide with the movie.

Video game plots are difficult because they somehow seem to have learned the wrong lessons from TV writers and novelists. A cliffhanger can be a nice thing to spark discussions and fan theories, and also raising anticipation for the next part/episode/season. Video game designers obviously learned that.

However, video games started to have more significant plots then "Demons over there, kill they ass" and "A hero are you" somewhere around the same time the dreaded Myth Arc's entered TV writing. Don't get me wrong, I love these, it's just it takes talent to pull them off; namely finding the right balance between closure and loose threads.

Let's take Mass Effect for example. In the game, you are getting drawn in by an imminent threat. While trying to get rid of it, you learn of an even bigger one. At the end of the game you have taken care of the imminent threat and the plot twist, however the bigger yet more shapeless and foggy threat is still looming in the background. You have taken out the Death Star, the Empire however still exists. Video games however tend to provide too much closure so that a sequel in the same setting with the same premise seems tacked on - or you'll get something which provides squat closure.

There are ways around that however. We lived perfectly fine with episodic shows before the Myth Arc's appeared and we still have them. This can be harder in video games, where you have to travel to Mordor and back and kill increasingly powerful adversaries - however, superhero comics do that as well and they have been fine (with occasionally cleaning the slate, but whatever.) Another thing would be the suggested approach in the column, keep the premise but change the setting or play from another viewpoint - actually a staple in the whole RTS genre, simply witness the plot from another faction's angle.

Or they could simply get competent writers which brings me back to the loose threads. The important thing to remember is - regardless if you are writing a multi parter for a video game, movie, tv show or a novel series is: Make every part worthwhile and give closure in each one. It's common for people writing a multi parter that you only have to write one story and split it up, as long as it makes sense as a whole it doesn't matter. This is why the middle part in many trilogies just suck. And with the common release cycles of games, you simply cannot afford that.

DeadlyYellow:
The Final Fantasy series is almost unique in how it does sequels. You get the namesake sequels: I - XII, which keep similar names and general game play (some will face the inevitable change.) But then you got the strange sub-series sequels, spin-offs, and prequels (X-2, FFXII Revenant Wings, FFVII Crisis Core, etc.)
...

You may want to edit your post to fix the nesting of your quotes; it confuses my comments with your own. For instance, I never wrote the statement "I'm looking at you Valve", and I'm not sure the context of that statement.

Anyway, in answer to your question, by singular, I mean the game developer making one large effort all at once to create the entire game world and packaging it as a single published game(not a single individual working on the game). What I was trying to suggest is to build and publish that game world more incrementally to control costs and risks and allow more detailing of the game world at each increment.

I suppose I should have been more clear regarding my opinion about the limits of the current development model as being applicable to extremely large game worlds or story-lines.

Nailed it on the head as always, Shamus.
Someone still might want to remove the formatting artefacts in the last paragraph on page one, these <del>s are really annoying.

it's more the setting and the world that really needs to be persistent in video game's but you cannot and repeat cannot do "stay tuned next year for assassins creed 2...."

the characters can come and go if done right, however the backlash to raiden in MGS2 is an example of how not to do this.

however, games like GTAIII series which have interweaving story arc and fill you in on tid bids, whilst introducing new characters of a persistent time line were great, it was nice to see different years and knowing that salvatore was gonna get his head shot off, even if he was alive in and kicking in a prequel. realistically i think GTA nailed it.

And I'd love it if we got another Max Payne game. I'm really surprised they didn't try to put out a new one to coincide with the movie.

I don't think you'd like that game... Marky Mark running around, whining for 2 hours and screaming "WHAT'S GOING ON?!?" at passerbys and maybe... just maaaaybe... shooting someone in the worse bullet time sequence in history.

Besides, Remedy are working on Alan Wake, aren't they? Better than a sequel, even if it's in name only, must be the new IP!

I have this theory that cliffhanger endings are more of an in-house marketing thing, and it doesn't really carry much risk. If the game does well, it practically guarantees that you'll be making another one. If the game doesn't do well, what does it matter that the story didn't wrap up? Nobody played the game and you're moving on to different things anyhow.

It amazes me that anybody can talk about bad sequels/cliffhanger endings without mentioning . . . *shudder*, KOTOR 2. To this day, I instinctively reach for my pitchfork and torch when I think about that game.

Previous statements about the Mass effect ending have had me wondering now, Could I have been the only person not to notice there was a cliffhanger?

I mean Now people have explained it, it's apparent to me why I never noticed, because like Shamus says, the intial conflict was resolved. So to me just felt like a typical victory over the established intergalactic evil.

Then again it might also be the fact that I bought my copy very late and was completing it by the time the second one was announced, so I knew more was coming, so when it was stated that there is a possibility of a greater threat I might've just politely shrugged it off.

Another thing I agree with is the winning formula of the Final Fantasy franchise, although I'm compelled to think to myself "Are they really sequels?" Sure they have the corresponding numbers to indicate that they're sequels, but whenever I think of sequels I normally think of a follow-on to an already established world and cast of characters. Really it might just be a narrow-minded view on the subject, but it does confuse me.

Episodic gaming I think is a fantastic diea, on paper, shorter games, for less money released more frequently, but the only problem with the equation is the more frequently released part. Because today's market apparently expect top of the line graphics and physics which take years to create in themselves, then there's the narrative to consider, the ideas the additions in gameplay mechanics.

I think what i'm getting at and more than likely what Shamus was getting at is when it takes so long to create the next link in the chain, is it really worth trying to create a series of games with an on-going storyline throughout?

What i'd prefer to see is episodic gaming, but with simpler concepts and mechanics maybe even dumb it down some. Forget gritty realism and perfect real world physics and intricate blood splatter dynamics or whatever they have entire teams for now days, just go back down basic formats and just make it "Fun" fun, not "It's fun because it can plausably be done in real life" fun.

This is possibly why Nintendo franchises, althuogh drastically declining in quality now, are still very popular.

orannis62:
In the subject of endings which you addressed, I think this is something Mass Effect did well. They give you a cliffhanger, but they also rap up the story of Saren and Sovereign in a satisfying way.

I agree. Games like Halo that give you a cliffhanger are infuriating. Especially if in the next game you learn virtually nothing.

Very good article, Shamus. These are contributing factors to why I enjoy my three favorite game series: Final Fantasy, Castlevania, and Zelda.

Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda do some true sequels, but for the most part they do new stories that re-use themes specific to the series. (Supposedly, there is a Zelda timeline, but people have gone mad trying to figure it out. As far as I'm concerned each incarnation of Link occupies his own continuity, i.e. Zelda I & II, Link to the Past & Link's Awakening, Wind Waker & Phantom Hourglass, etc.)

Castlevania is an interesting case because while it has a definite timeline (complete with dates) and recurring characters, nearly every game features an original protagonist. They realized pretty early on that they couldn't just have Simon Belmont killing Dracula over and over again, but they could hve lots of different people killing Dracula over and over again. The need to kill Dracula over and over again is actually an important theme that shapes many of the games' stories - most notably the "Sorrow" games. From a gameplay standpoint, the use of different characters enables a variety of gameplay, letting the developers experiment greatly with what the player character is capable of doing.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that the whole cliffhanger-sequel-preplanned-trilogy thing is a western trend. Japanese companies will happily crank out sequel after sequel to a successful game, but they usually make each game self-contained with some sort of satisfactory resolution (Xenosaga notwithstanding). Japanese TV is the same way. Instead of trying to create a concept and characters and then running the show for as long as they can, they create a series of set episodes, and then that's it. If it's popular they make another series, if not oh well.

I like sequels. If the game is good and people want more of the same, why not give it to them?

karmapolizei:
Nailed it on the head as always, Shamus.
Someone still might want to remove the formatting artefacts in the last paragraph on page one, these <del>s are really annoying.

I assumed these were intentional.

dochmbi:
I like sequels. If the game is good and people want more of the same, why not give it to them?

This is true. It's also true that developers and publishers could at least give some story closure with each game. After all, it's not like a cliffhanger ending makes anyone more likely to buy the sequel--they'll buy it if the gameplay's good, so why shaft the player of a proper reward in this game?

Final Fantasy is not a series it is a seal of approval that square soft give to RPGs that they badly want to sell. The problem is story and game play should not be treated as separate elements, both are better when both are equally intrinsic parts of the games premise.

meatloaf231:

orannis62:
In the subject of endings which you addressed, I think this is something Mass Effect did well. They give you a cliffhanger, but they also rap up the story of Saren and Sovereign in a satisfying way.

This is true. One of the only games that has both cliffhangery-nonsense and resolution.

That Max Payne idea is actually really good... having a single character that isn't recycled as they are reinvented each game.

Mass Effect didn't strike me as having a "cliff hanger", that's what I usually call an "open ended" ending, wraps up most of the story, but leaves it open for a sequel.

Nice article.

Sequels aren't necessarily bad, but developers need to understand the limit of how far they can go with their stories.

The guy has a point with the whole "Stories should have closure" bit, but I think that there is such a thing as a story with too much fucking closure,i.e. Neon Genisis Evangellion. And anyone who knows how that ended should know what I mean.

Cliffhangers are extremely irritating, especially in the case of a little game called Shinobi.

We will never see the ending. Ever.

The one thing I hate more than sequels is trilogies. One recurring theme in trilogies - in games, books and films - which always annoys me is that they always follow the same pattern:

Episode 1: A nice, well rounded story. Little or no loose ends (certainly none of great consequence) allowing the audience to come away with closure. The series could quite happily finish there

Episode 2: Invariably the worst instalment in this kind of trilogy. The author has decided that, although he had a good idea to begin with, he's now going to milk it dry. He grafts on a new storyline which has absolutely no bearing on the previous one, takes all the old characters who, as Shamus said, have become bland and dull without their mystery. Then he leaves us with a cliffhanger so that we're going to have to see the finale just to get that feeling of closure back.

Episode 3: Nothing new here; the author finishes of the story; everyone gets married and has fifty kids. The audience goes home feeling hollow and violated.

Hundreds of titles are guilty of this; Halo, Pirates of the Caribbean, Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy, Star Wars Episodes IV to VI... Admittedly the last one did it fairly well but then they screwed it up by making I, II and III.

Sequals, like you said, are okay in moderation. Honestly I would like to see more breaking away from the numbers (Unless it's Final Fantasy, you stick to your numbers because everything else kind of sucks.) Like, what is it Halo Wars? That gives you some back story into the Halo universe that you don't have to look for in your local Books-A-Million in poorly written fan-fiction...

However, I read the article for Bioshock 2 and it looks to have redone a lot of things. A very nice looking sequal sadly I'm looking foward to it more than Final Fantasy XIII. The point is it comes down to money. Let's make Halo 5.339 because people will by it and we'll make a mint.

There's nothing wrong with wanting money for games but games are still a media art and require the spice of creativity. It's not all their fault either gamers are complacent, despite some of our wining about unoriginality, we are kind of asking for the formula we want it, and we don't like change. That's why I say bravo to Capcom for giving Resident Evil a face lift (I won't say much story-wise because I picked it up at four and was quite thankful for the refreshers.)The point was they had the stones to try something new.

Shame on you Shamus.

As a PC gamer, you should know that Final Fantasy isn't the only franchise to get the "clean slate" idea nor the first. Wizardry would also pretty much start a whole new game each installment and Might and Magic also had a new world, even though it also followed continuity it also made sure each game is its own thing.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here