If memory serves, it was the Fear 2 review where I dreamed of a world in which sequels are banned. And I still believe such a thing would be a veritable utopia, as long as we’re not bothered about things like agriculture or medicine or any of that crap. But hypothetical utopias are virtually characterized by their impracticality. There will always be sequels because there will always be people willing to spend money on sequels. So with that in mind, I have created a new revision to the law:
Sequels should only be made by people who didn’t like the original.
I can’t decide if this should apply to situations when the sequel is scheduled, planned out and factored into the story from the very beginning, as with, say, the Lord of the Rings movies. That’s not really a ‘sequel,’ is it? It’s more of a ‘serial.’ I’m thinking more in terms of new stories after the first one has been resolved. But then again, a good serial generally has an understandable, self-contained story within each episode (as with pre-ruined Star Wars). And when it comes to videogames, if you can’t tell a complete story within 10 hours of gameplay then maybe you should consider simplifying it a tad.
So here’s the scenario: You own some intellectual property. Let’s pick an example completely out of the air – Monkey Island. The last game was Monkey Island 2, which ended the story about as thoroughly as it could, without sawing its own legs off. But the cocaine trough is running low and you want to make a sequel. Two people want the job. One didn’t really like Monkey Island 2 much because it got a bit too morbid at times and Guybrush looked like a member of Spinal Tap, so he wants to set the new one in space. The other is a die-hard fan of the series who swears he will pay proper respect and bring back all his favorite characters and running gags and give it great big cuddles and make sure no nasty men do it any harm for ever and ever and ever. Who do you give the project to?
I think it’s the fans you need to be most wary of. The ones who talk about ‘paying respect.’ Respect? It’s a funny pirate game, it’s not the fucking House of Hanover. Fans are virtually defined by their habit of placing the works they like on unfathomable pedestals, and if you let them continue the series, they’ll be making games for themselves, no-one else.
I look at Tales of Monkey Island and I see a game that follows a lot of the same cues as the originals but misses a lot of points. The action is set on various islands with vaguely pirate-themed names, but in the originals (and in 3 and 4 to a lesser extent) the islands each had a unique feel and a vibrant community, while the islands in Tales are interchangeable blocks of three to four puzzle-important buildings populated by as many shipwreck victims. And there’s usually a forest maze, forgetting that the forest maze was one of the worst parts of Monkey Island 1 (second only to gathering sword fighting insults, a grindfest predating even World of Warcraft).
Fans create sequels that hold up the predecessors as something to live up to, rather than something to improve upon. And that’s not the right mindset to take. If you’re not going to try to be better, what’s the point? To give something to all the other fans? They won’t appreciate it. The more fan-oriented an installment becomes, the more holes they find to pick in it. Some kind of Un-fan-ny Valley effect, perhaps. But give it to someone who isn’t a fan and they’ll force it to change, and evolve. The fans will like it even less, but frankly, fuck ’em.
I’m not saying that drastic changes will always produce something better, I mean, I saw Highlander 2. But in the long run, nothing stays good by wallowing around unchallenged in the same territory as always. I don’t honestly think Monkey Island In Space would be good. I think it sounds pretty awful. But I’d definitely play it, if only out of a dreadful, morbid curiosity. It might leave me enriched or standing on a chair with a noose around my throat, but it wouldn’t matter. Because when you’ve got a sacred monument it’s better to tear it down and rebuild it with hookers and rocket launchers, rather than leave it unchanged to gather pigeon poo for another few stagnant years.
“You can have half a dimension >.>”
– spleenboy, from the 2.5D Hoedown comments
“Speaking as an infuriated geometrist myself, there is such a thing as a 2.5th dimension: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal_dimension “
– Matthew Robertson, email
“Half dimensions do exist. For example, some scientists consider time to be half a dimension because it can only move in one direction.”
– Jeffrey Penney, email
“Yes, you *can* have 2.5 dimensions, though it’s nothing like what those games represent.”
– Silent Coercion, email
“Actually, fractals are often expressed as having non-integer dimensions. It’s referred to as a Hausdorff Dimension.”
– Daniel Haas, email
“A Sapinsky Gasket (google it) has 1.6 dimensions.”
– Bethany Rogers, email
ALRIGHT! SHUT UP! Jesus, if I’d known this was so important to all you motherfuckers I’d have just made a fucking knob gag.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.